For the displaced and the forgotten
The World Food Programme’s use of flexible and Immediate Response Account funding in 2018
In 2018, Yemen got alarmingly close to a situation of widespread famine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced a new Ebola outbreak in Kivu while ethnic tensions continued in Kasai, Madagascar continued to suffer from a persistent drought which ruined harvests and annihilated already fragile livelihoods, and the Sahel lived through its worst lean season of the last four years. Colombia, Ecuador and other Latin American countries welcomed hundreds of thousands of migrants in an unprecedented regional crisis, while close to a million displaced Rohingyas continued to endure a difficult and tumultuous life in Cox’s Bazar camps, Bangladesh. Protracted crises in Syria, Somalia or Palestine continued to take a toll on the poorest and make their lives a daily struggle for survival.
Flexible funding in 2018
In this context, government donors have generously stepped up their support to WFP, with over US$7.4 billion in total funding. WFP appreciates the support of every partner contributing to its objective of building a world with Zero Hunger, the achievement of which depends on consistent and reliable partnerships. With their help, WFP was able to deliver record levels of assistance in line with increased humanitarian needs.
Out of this total, donors provided over US$420 million of flexible funding (occasionally referred to as “multilateral” in WFP publications), a 10 percent increase in absolute terms from 2017, consistent with the increase in total contributions. However, flexible contributions remained at just 6 percent of WFP’s total resources, well below a 20 percent mark in 2008.
Flexible funding is funding that is not earmarked by a donor to a specific activity in a specific country or operation, giving WFP flexibility in its allocation. This type of funding may be partially flexible or fully flexible. Partially flexible or “softly earmarked” funding might be tied to a geographical region or a type of activity (for example, emergency response as opposed to development and root causes). Fully flexible contributions allow WFP to use funds wherever and whenever needs are greatest.
Flexible and predictable funding committed over several years gives WFP the ability to respond to sudden-onset emergencies as well as the means to sustain lifesaving assistance in forgotten and protracted crises. Flexible funds enable a dynamic response to rapidly changing humanitarian needs. Their value goes hand in hand with the humanitarian principles of humanity and impartiality embraced by WFP; they allow the organization to prioritise needs, irrespective of government budget cycles, politics and media attention. Predictable funding (including “multiyear” funding) enables WFP to plan ahead, save on costs and provide more effective and consistent assistance to vulnerable populations.
Under the agreement known as the Grand Bargain, concluded at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, leading donors and humanitarian actors including the governments of the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and European countries, committed to reducing the earmarking of funds. Consequently, WFP is seeking a higher level of flexible resources.
This report complements other WFP publications such as the Annual Performance Report (APR) and Annual Country Reports (ACRs). It is intended to highlight the distinct value of flexible funding for WFP operations and the populations that WFP serves, to illustrate the use of flexible funds over 2018, as well as to express appreciation to donors who regularly commit highly flexible, highly predictable funding.
Resolute donors, lifesaving allocations
In 2018, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Ireland and Belgium led the way in supporting WFP with flexible funds.
Hear Per Olsson Fridh, state secretary to the Minister of International Development of Sweden, talk about the value of flexible and multiyear funding provided by the Swedish government for WFP’s response to emergencies around the world.
“We expect WFP to deliver swiftly, efficiently and effectively. Flexible and multiyear funding allows it to be an agile and rapid humanitarian responder.” (Per Olsson Fridh, state secretary to the Minister of International Development of Sweden)
Access the interactive map to see which donors contributed flexible funding to WFP in 2018, and where this funding was allocated by the organisation’s resource allocation bodies.
WFP’s expertise in the assessment of needs and of local economic and market conditions, together with its logistics and supply chain capacity, ensure that the value of flexible funding is maximised by allocating funds whenever and wherever they are most needed and will be put to the best use.
WFP’s Strategic Resource Allocation Committee (SRAC) is responsible for allocation decisions. The SRAC makes such decisions based on a number of qualitative and quantitative criteria including food security indicators, the level of emergency, and the current resourcing and estimated shortfall of the operation (contributions registered and forecast). Using these criteria ensures that funding reaches operations in critical need of resources, and benefits the populations facing the highest and most debilitating levels of hunger and malnutrition — including those falling outside of the most visible high-profile emergencies.
The SRAC also allocates directly to WFP core activities that are deemed strategic for the long-term sustainability and efficiency of the organization, such as technology, legal functions, strategic coordination, security, risk management, or the development of SCOPE (WFP’s beneficiary identification system). In 2018, US$33 million in funding was allocated to such activities.
“It’s pretty simple: flexible funding allows us to be more timely, effective and efficient,” says WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “We can deliver the maximum impact for every contribution we receive”.
“It’s pretty simple: flexible funding allows us to be more timely, effective and efficient, delivering the maximum impact for every contribution we receive” (David Beasley, WFP Executive Director)
Flexible funds have supported and sustained all of WFP’s most critical emergencies in 2018. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), top recipient of flexible funding in 2018, allocations were already essential in 2017 to allow for a rapid tenfold scale-up of assistance — from 40,000 to 400,000 beneficiaries — after WFP declared Kasai a corporate Level 3 Emergency following widespread ethnic tensions and violence. Supported by over US$50 million in flexible funding allocations, the WFP DRC operation has continued to expand rapidly into 2018, and is projected to reach over a million people by the end of the year. In Yemen, US$12 million in flexible funding allocations contributed to WFP’s largest emergency response — a lifesaving operation on which more than 8 million people depend every month.
In Colombia, flexible funding powered the quick scale up of assistance in the three regions that welcomed the highest numbers of migrants. In the Sahel, the early availability of flexible resources enabled WFP to kickstart its response to the lean season, reaching over 3 million people with food assistance in a cost-efficient way, and averting a major food crisis. In Palestine, flexible funds have sustained a lifeline to populations in Gaza and the West Bank, and given WFP the latitude to choose the best modalities to deliver assistance efficiently. In Bangladesh, flexible funding has been essential in continuing to make life bearable for 870,000 people in the world’s largest camp, and has enabled some of WFP’s least visible, most life-changing interventions. Finally, in Madagascar, flexible funds have supported communities affected by severe and persistent drought in a context where very few donors were coming forward. You will learn more about the value of flexible funding for these five operations in the stories that follow.
The Immediate Response Account
The Immediate Response Account (IRA) is WFP’s most flexible funding facility. Contributions to the IRA are fully flexible (completely unearmarked) which allows WFP’s executive leadership to identify and sustain the emergencies in most critical or urgent need of funds through corporate advances, which are expected to be repaid when donor funding is secured. Advances from the IRA enable the deployment of assistance within 24 hours of the onset of a crisis, and help to save lives when crises evolve abruptly and unexpectedly.
“In times of crisis, natural or man made, immediate access to unconditional resources is a matter of life and death,” recognises Bruno Van der Pluijm, Belgian Director General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid. In 2018, Belgium contributed US$5.4 million of fully unearmarked, unconditional funding to the IRA, making it one of its top supporters.
“In times of crisis, natural or man-made, immediate access to unconditional resources is a matter of life and death.”
B. Van Der Pluijm, Belgium
Manuel Bessler, Deputy Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, also commended the value of the IRA in the 2017 edition of this report. Watch his statement here.
Unconditional resources, immediate action
A group of committed government partners are powering the IRA and enabling immediate and flexible action in the most complex and fast-evolving emergencies. Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Canada and Ireland were top supporters of WFP’s IRA in 2018. Flexible funding contributed to WFP that is not directly intended for the IRA can still be channelled to the account through WFP internal funding decisions (SRAC). In 2018, the SRAC allocated US$68 million of flexible contributions to the IRA.
WFP’s Immediate Response Account: a catalyst to assist displaced families in Colombia
Migrants from Venezuela have been crossing into Colombia by the thousands every month of 2018. According to Immigration authorities, close to 1 million Venezuelans have now settled in Colombia.
Flexible funding enables a timely response
In April of 2018, at the request of the Colombian Government, WFP launched a humanitarian operation to provide food assistance to migrants in the departments of Arauca, La Guajira and Norte de Santander, near the Colombian-Venezuelan border. Operations have then expanded to Nariño, a department bordering Ecuador.
WFP in Colombia received US$18 million in allocations of flexible funding in 2018, over 40 percent of its total budget. This funding included emergency advances from the Immediate Response Account totalling US$10.5 million, which made Colombia the fifth most important recipient of IRA funding over the year.
IRA advances were critical in ensuring a timely response to the crisis in the border regions of Arauca, Cúcuta, Pasto and Riohacha. They were used to support vulnerable migrants with hot meals in community kitchens, food vouchers that the families can redeem in local shops contracted by WFP, as well as food kits wherever food shops are scarce.
The only meal in a day
The Divina Providencia community kitchen in La Parada, Villa Del Rosario, Cúcuta, supported by WFP, is located just 1 km from the border. The city is an entry point for migrants crossing the Simón Bolívar bridge linking Colombia to Venezuela. The kitchen has welcomed hundreds of pregnant and nursing mothers, children and elderly people every day. For many of them, the meal they have in the community kitchen is the only meal of the day.
Anahis is one of the migrants enjoying nutritious lunches in the community kitchen. She is trained as a nurse, and has come to the kitchen every day with her family while she looked for a job in Cúcuta. The nutritious food served at the kitchen gives her the strength to keep moving forward: “here they have given us a lot of help. They’ve been feeding us every day, and the food is of prime quality. I ate lentils, plantain, chicken, and sometimes there’s also soup. It’s very balanced and varied”.
“The food here is very balanced and varied. I ate lentils, plantain, chicken, sometimes there’s also soup”.
Love: the main ingredient
David, a Venezuelan himself, has worked for a year in the La Parada community kitchen helping to prepare food. While he cuts beans for lunch, David explains: “we want them (the migrants) to feel at home. Because most of us are Venezuelans ourselves, we know what they like.” David is committed to passing on the support and affection he received when he arrived in Colombia himself: “everyone deserves to be welcomed like that,” he says.
“We want the migrants to feel at home, eating the food they love. Everyone deserves to be welcomed like that”.
WFP also assists families in Cúcuta with cash and vouchers. Many migrant families living in temporary shelters or informal settlements in Cúcuta receive prepaid cards valued at US$34 (or 96,000 Colombian pesos) per family per month, which they can exchange for food and other basic necessities at local shops previously selected by WFP.
Additionally, WFP provides specialised nutritional support to pregnant and nursing mothers and young children, works to empower indigenous communities hosting migrants in the La Guajira department (bordering Venezuela), and has rolled out a school feeding programme in the same region to promote the integration of young migrants into local communities.
Advances from the Immediate Response Account and allocations of flexible funds were critical in enabling a timely response and supporting migrant families in Colombia, as well as in kickstarting the WFP school feeding programme in La Guajira.
Flexible funds kickstart WFP’s response to an extreme lean season in the Sahel
The Sahel is an arid belt of land below the Sahara Desert that stretches across Africa, from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east. It is prone to drought and food and nutrition crises that are linked to climatic shocks and underdevelopment. Over 60 percent of the population in the Sahel is under 25, and one in four people live in active conflict areas. With limited access to education, jobs and opportunities, the youth often migrate or join armed groups.
The “lean season” is the period between harvests when food stocks are depleted, which in the Sahel typically begins around June and lasts for around three months. Food insecurity is often at its most acute around this time of the year. With particularly poor rainfall in 2017 and early 2018, the Sahel in 2018 experienced its worst lean season of the last four years. The erratic rainfalls ruined harvests, decimated livestock and worsened an already precarious food security and nutrition situation, leading WFP to declare a Level 3 (highest corporate level) emergency in the region.
“The rains were just too poor,” said Mr. Ndiaye, the village head in Orefonde, Senegal, to WFP’s Country Director in the Senegal, Lena Savelli, in May 2018. “We couldn’t get a good harvest. As the river didn’t rise, we couldn’t plant along the banks either.”
“The rains were just too poor. We couldn’t get a good harvest. As the river didn’t rise, we couldn’t plant along the banks either.” (Demba Lao Ndiaye, village head in Orefonde, Senegal)
In this context, food stocks were exhausted much earlier than anticipated, and 5.8 million people were estimated to be food insecure across Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal — a 20 percent increase over 2017. Exacerbated by political and socio-economic instability as well as environmental degradation, a severe lean season risked increasing tensions between pastoralists and farmers, and forcing people to cope by selling their livestock and assets or reduce the number of their meals.
Winning a race against time
Logistics is often a race against time: in the Sahel, food and nutrition supplies needed to be moved to remote locations as early as possible before the rains started and roads became impassable.
After food security assessments and early warning systems had pointed out the severity of the upcoming lean season, WFP could quickly use internal injections of flexible funds to kickstart its response. Instead of waiting for contributions to be confirmed and allocated, WFP purchased food in bulk and in advance, as early as January and February. This allowed WFP to procure food at favourable prices and from local markets. Some 56 percent of the commodities purchased by WFP for the lean season response were procured from smallholder farmers and markets in the region.
Purchasing food early, WFP could start moving and positioning stocks, and was then ready to respond when the crisis flared up. In Chad, US$7.5 million in flexible funding allowed WFP to purchase food early for interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition among young children (aged between 6 months and 6 years). In Burkina Faso, flexible funds enabled WFP to pre-position nutritional products for almost 19,000 children and women including nursing mothers.
Pre-positioned supplies also mean that WFP can reduce the lead time between the moment a donor contribution is confirmed and the moment food is received by beneficiaries.
“The flexible contributions received allowed us to start assisting 45,000 people with food and cash before the peak of the lean season had taken a toll on already fragile livelihoods. The flexibility allowed us to target the regions and households most in need, and ensure the arrival of nutritional products for children and young mothers way ahead of the lean period”. (Rainatou Baillet, WFP Deputy Country Director in Mauritania)
Averting a major food crisis
Internal allocations of flexible funding were the second source of funds for WFP’s lean season response in the Sahel, making up about 22 percent of the total funding available. They were critical in enabling WFP to reach 3.1 million people from March to September and averting a major food crisis in the region, which could have threatened many lives.
WFP assisted populations through a combination of food, cash-based transfers where markets were functioning, and activities to prevent and treat malnutrition. Around 90,000 metric tons of food were distributed by the end of September, and around US$48 million was provided in the form of cash-based transfers. 710,000 women and children benefited from specialised nutritional assistance.
“This was our biggest lean season response of the last six years. And it was really thanks to flexible funding.“ (Nancy Walters, WFP Country Director in Chad)
Moving forward, WFP is linking early response interventions to investments in resilience in the Sahel. WFP aims to support over 2 million people with resilience activities over the 2019–2023 period across the region, investing in education, nutrition, health and livelihoods, and creating jobs for the youth.
Far away from the capitals and the eyes of the world, rarely in the headlines, and unable to attract the support needed to address chronic challenges of climate change, degradation of resources, a demographic explosion and extreme poverty, the population of the Sahel is vulnerable every year to recurrent climate shocks. Flexible resources contributed to a successful and cost-effective response in 2018, in a particularly severe context, averting major human loss and suffering.
Flexible funds sustain a cash lifeline in Palestine
In the face of mounting hardships, WFP in Palestine relied on an unprecedented level of flexible funding in 2018. Flexible funding — including an advance from the Immediate Response Account — totalled over US$21 million, which represented almost half of the operation’s resources. Flexible funding kept the WFP response afloat in both Gaza and the West Bank, where hundreds of thousands depend on regular assistance to survive. Families continuously face the threat of falling into a deeper state of food insecurity as the gap between available resources and humanitarian needs widens.
Flexibility for efficiency and accountability
Allocations of flexible funding enabled WFP to support populations in the West Bank when a majority of direct donor contributions were earmarked for Gaza. This ensured a fair and equitable distribution of assistance within Palestine, leaving no one behind.
The flexible nature of unearmarked and IRA allocations also contributed to the efficiency of WFP’s interventions in Gaza. With unearmarked funds, WFP could scale up its use of cash vouchers and reach more people, more efficiently. The use of vouchers also directly supported a moribund local economy, as beneficiaries of assistance purchased food in local markets.
Sustaining assistance against mounting hardships in Gaza
Life is tougher than ever for most of the two million Palestinians living in Gaza. Over two thirds of the population in the region are food-insecure. The unemployment rate has reached over 50 percent in 2018 — the highest recorded rate in the world — peaking at two thirds among women.
Gaza residents, who suffer the pervasive consequences of diminishing basic social services and a shrinking job market, have exhausted almost all of their resources trying to cope with increased hardships. They are pushed into debt to meet their basic needs. “My brother stopped working and my friends and family can no longer support me. I had no choice but to take on additional loans so that my children would not have to sleep on an empty stomach,” said Sanuora, a divorced mother of six children in Beitlahia, North Gaza, to WFP staff.
Findings from WFP’s 2018 monitoring showed that 75 percent of households receiving WFP assistance in Gaza are heavily indebted, with an average debt of US$4,300, when most live on a budget of US$1 per day. All fall far below the national poverty line of US$3.7 per day per person. Aside from purchasing food and other necessities on credit, Gaza residents have tried to cope by skipping meals, buying cheaper food — often of poorer quality — or sending their children to school without food or pocket money for lunch.
“My brother stopped working and my friends and family can no longer afford to support me. I had no choice but to take on additional loans so that my children would not have to sleep on an empty stomach.” (Sanuora, divorced mother of six children in Beitlahia, North Gaza)
WFP is on the frontline to provide critical assistance to over 245,000 of the most vulnerable among the non-refugee population. 85 percent of WFP beneficiaries in Gaza receive their monthly entitlements via an electronic food card, onto which US$10 per person are credited every month. Sanuora is one of them.
The average household debt is US$4,300, when most people live on a budget of US$1 per day.
Injections of cash revitalise the Gazan economy
The benefits of WFP food assistance in Palestine go beyond the immediate impact on people’s ability to meet their pressing food needs. Providing food vouchers with the support of flexible funds has had positive spill-over effects on job creation and investment in the agro-industrial sector.
Arif, 50, owns the Al Jaleel dairy company. His factory, based in Deir-El Balah, produces yoghurt and cheese. Today, 70 percent of his produce is sold to the 83 WFP-contracted shops. Every day, the firm collects 1,500 litres of milk from 11 farmers and produces half a ton of dairy products. This is twice as much as four years ago when the partnership with WFP started. With guaranteed revenue, he felt confident to re-invest. He has expanded his factory, purchased new equipment, installed a lab, and hired eight additional workers.
To offset the impact of reduced directed donor support, WFP Palestine relied on an unprecedented level of flexible funding in 2018, including from WFP’s Immediate Response Account. The flexible nature of this support empowered WFP to continue and scale up its cash assistance in Gaza, preventing vulnerable populations from falling into a deeper state of insecurity and supporting an economy with 50 percent of unemployment. It was also instrumental in sustaining operations in the West Bank.
Learn more about WFP’s assistance in Palestine:
Keeping life bearable for 870,000 people in the world’s largest refugee camp
In August 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas fled violence in Myanmar and risked their lives to cross the border into Bangladesh. The sight of women, children and elderly people crossing on foot by the thousands continued until December 2017.
Most of them settled in Cox’s Bazar, a coastal town in the southeast of Bangladesh, which in just a few months became the site of the world’s largest refugee camp, hosting over a million people. Refugees staying there are safe from persecution, but live under the threat of illness and malnutrition.
From day one of the crisis, WFP has been supplying nutrient-rich biscuits to new arrivals and feeding registered residents with regular distributions of rice, vegetable oil and lentils. WFP has also been providing hot meals through community kitchens and delivering supplementary nutrition to pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children.
Feeding 870,000 every month
In 2018, WFP provided food assistance to 870,000 Rohingya refugees every month. Assistance now takes the form of food distributions, food vouchers, as well as targeted nutrition interventions. To reach that many people, WFP in Bangladesh has needed as much as US$24 million per month. Critically underfunded, the operation relied heavily on allocations of flexible funding, both by decision of WFP’s Strategic Resource Allocation Committee and through WFP’s Immediate Response Account. Continued and sustained assistance would have been impossible throughout 2018 without flexible donor contributions.
Flexible funding enables the less visible, life-changing interventions
Aside from the most visible aspects of its operation — large scale food and voucher distributions — WFP has been hard at work improving the infrastructure of the camp and enhancing the opportunities and the resilience of displaced populations. Inter-agency site maintenance and engineering projects (SMEP) have been essential to save the lives of refugees who were settled in the parts of the camp most threatened by flooding and landslides during the monsoon. Life-skills trainings and livelihoods programmes are empowering women and girls, helping them generate an income and become independent. Finally, school meals help ensure that displaced children continue to attend school and have opportunities to learn and thrive — preventing the loss of a generation’s potential.
Sahara Kathun and her young daughter Tamana Bibi were among the many families that benefited from these life-changing interventions. Together with thousands of other families, they were relocated from unsafe parts of the camp to new areas built through the SMEP, just before the 2018 monsoon.
“My daughter Tamana Bibi was born during monsoon, inside our broken house. She would get drenched in the rain. She caught a cold and fever, the only way I could protect her was to keep her clutched to my chest. We lived in that condition for a few days and then we were moved to this camp. I feel much happier and safer here now.”
“My daughter was born inside our broken house. She would get drenched in the rain. I feel much safer now.”
Engineering, livelihoods and school meals programmes have been some of the most underfunded WFP interventions in Bangladesh. With allocations worth US$1 million for SMEP, US$2.3 million for skills trainings and livelihoods programmes, and US$2.4 million for school meals, flexible funds have enabled this essential side of WFP’s work in the country. Funding to the school meals programme notably allowed its expansion from two to three sub-districts, reaching 12,000 children in 44 schools.
Flexible funds have sustained WFP’s lifesaving food assistance to hundreds of thousands in Bangladesh through the second year of crisis, and enabled life-changing interventions that continue to make conditions safer and more bearable for displaced women, girls and families.
Flexible funds save lives in a critically underfunded emergency drought response in Madagascar
Extreme weather, boosted by climate change, is one of the key factors in the recent increase in global hunger.
In Madagascar, three consecutive years of prolonged drought, amplified in 2016 by the climatic phenomenon El Niño, have continued into 2018, repeatedly ruining harvests. By the Autumn of 2018, having seen no rains for several years, the population was critically weakened by the lack of food, which particularly affected the most vulnerable: young children and women. WFP estimated that in the South of the country, more than one million people did not have access to sufficient food, and almost half of children under 5 were suffering from chronic malnutrition.
Scaling up quickly when needs are acute
WFP set out an emergency response plan in Madagascar in September 2018 to support up to 850,000 people during the lean season, with a combination of cash assistance and in-kind food distributions, as well as nutritional support for the most vulnerable.
WFP in Madagascar received US$13.6 million in flexible funding over the year, of which US$4.8 million from the Immediate Response Account. This allowed WFP to scale up its emergency response quickly and fill critical funding shortfalls. WFP was able to reach 180,000 of the most vulnerable with food distributions, cash assistance and nutrition support.
Building resilience, one dune at a time
Flexible funding not only enabled WFP to save lives at the most critical time with emergency assistance, but also helped to change lives by building resilience to future shocks in the South of Madagascar.
Over the last few years, the drought-affected region of Faux Cap, on the southern coast of Madagascar, has been battered by strong winds which has resulted in the formation of dunes on cultivated land. The sand has covered the land, but also the houses nearby, up to 10 km inland. The people of Faux Cap, eager to rehabilitate their land, took part in WFP’s Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) programme.
WFP’s FFA initiatives address immediate food needs while at the same time promoting the creation or rehabilitation of assets that will improve long-term food security and resilience. For eight months, 945 people from the Faux Cap community worked on the rehabilitation of dunes. Every month, each participant received a basket of food consisting of cereals, pulses and vegetable oil, to support them while they worked.
“These lands seemed to be lost forever. Thanks to this project, we can now cultivate thesm.”
“These lands seemed to be lost forever. Thanks to this project, we can now cultivate them. It’s reassuring for the future,” said Miarisoa, a young mother and participant in the project, to WFP staff in October.
About this report
This report was released on June 1, 2019. It is published annually to recognise the lifesaving and life-changing interventions that donors of flexible funding make possible around the world.
Previous editions of the report can be accessed at the links below: