Food assistance is provided in anticipation of, during, and in the aftermath of a humanitarian crisis. Its objective is to save lives and livelihoods to avert emergency rates of acute malnutrition or detrimental coping mechanisms.
Through its humanitarian food assistance, the European Commission aims to ensure the availability of, access to, and consumption of safe and nutritious food for the hungriest and most vulnerable people in crises.
Despite some encouraging overall progress over the last decade, the 2018 State of the Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) published by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports a raising level of food insecurity and hunger, with about 821 million people having faced food insecurity in 2017 worldwide.
Of these, almost 124 million people faced crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse (including famine condition) according to the Global Report on Food Crises 2018, which represents an 11 percent increase compared to the previous year. Major food crises were fuelled in 2017 by conflict, climate shocks, and displacement.
The Commission's European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) department is fully committed to providing humanitarian food assistance to victims of food crises around the world and investing in reducing the risk of famine in an integrated response and prevention approach.
Overall, almost one third of the EU annual humanitarian aid budget is used to provide emergency food assistance, making the EU one of the world's major donors in this sector.
Since 2010, the EU has been rolling out its humanitarian food assistance policy and supported over 100 million people lacking access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food.
EU food assistance is adapted to each specific crisis situation. For instance, when the availability of food in shops and markets is not sufficient and the victims of disasters have lost their financial resources to purchase food, the European Commission helps vulnerable people get access to the food they need by providing them with cash-based assistance. This is often more efficient and effective than shipping sacks of rice or flour across the globe.
However, if after a disaster no food is temporarily available in the local markets, the Commission provides the most vulnerable with essential food items during critical times.
The EU prioritises providing sustainable solutions and restoring self-reliance by building resilience and protecting the livelihoods of food insecure rural households. It does this through a number of ways, for example, equipping vulnerable family farmers with seeds and toolkits so that they can grow their own food and become self-sufficient.