Stepping up in a year of unprecedented challenges


In a year with unprecedented challenges, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the largest humanitarian organisation working towards zero hunger, stepped up and reached 115 million people in need, working in 88 countries — the largest effort in our 60-year history. The European Union remained one of our most vital partners, helping scale up our operations to continue saving and changing lives across the globe.

Driven by conflict, climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, hunger continued to rise in 2020. The latest Global Report on Food Crises found that the number of people facing acute food insecurity and needing urgent assistance hit a five-year high in 2020. Conflict, extreme weather and economic shocks — including those caused by COVID-19 — pushed at least 155 million people across 55 countries into acute food insecurity.


million people


million people



acutely food insecure in 2020

in emergency
(IPC phase 4)

in Catastrophe
(IPC phase 5)

Data from Global report

Hunger figures

acutely food insecure in 2020 (across 55 countries)

in emergency
(IPC phase 4)

in Catastrophe
(IPC phase 5)

Primary drivers

The Global Report on Food Crises, which provides the latest estimates of acute hunger in the world, is the flagship product of the Global Network Against Food Crises, which was launched in 2016 by the European Union, WFP and FAO to prevent and address the most severe hunger emergencies.

The socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19 pushed many already-struggling communities into desperate circumstances. By the end of 2020, an estimated 270 million people (across 79 countries where data is available) faced acute food insecurity — an 82 percent increase from pre-pandemic levels.

Without peace, we cannot end hunger.

Despite the pandemic, conflict remained the main driver of hunger in the world. For WFP’s efforts to combat food insecurity and to address the root causes of hunger by working to prevent its use as a weapon of war and conflict, we were honoured to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020, and to join the European Union (awarded the prize in 2012) as a Nobel Laureate.

In the face of these growing food security challenges, the EU’s support in 2020 and its dedication to WFP were vital for addressing climate change, building peace, investing in economies and building better futures.

wfp's partnership with

the eu in 2020

WFP’s Partnership with

the EU in 2020

The EU and its Member States were committed to the world’s most vulnerable people, contributing a total of over

1.94 billion to WFP in 2020.

The European Commission alone contributed €466 million and was WFP’s fourth largest donor.


Thanks to support from the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), WFP was able to reach those most affected by conflict and insecurity, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding from DG ECHO allowed WFP to save lives in the most severe emergencies and implement innovative solutions to effectively help those in need. This funding also ensured that people living in the world’s forgotten crises weren’t overlooked. WFP remains ECHO’s top UN partner by funding.


Together with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (INTPA), WFP worked to address the root causes of hunger, providing communities around the globe with sustainable and long-term solutions to lift them out of hunger and poverty — ranging from resilience building and livelihoods activities to nutrition and school meals programmes. In 2020, WFP and INTPA strengthened our technical and thematic dialogue, both in Brussels and throughout the dozens of countries where we work closely together.


Thanks to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR), WFP was able to support national social safety net programmes in Lebanon and provide cash assistance to both vulnerable Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and impoverished Lebanese host communities during the country’s worst crisis since the civil war. The support from NEAR to WFP operations in Lebanon represented the single largest contribution from the European Commission to WFP in 2020.

WFP’s Work with

Other EU Institutions

In addition to working with the European Commission to fight hunger around the globe, WFP has also developed a strong partnership with the other EU institutions in Brussels, particularly the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Union External Action Service.

The EU’s dedication to promoting peace and security, addressing climate change and investing in a sustainable world for all is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Strong partnerships such as the one between WFP and the EU are not only vital to help people in need, but also to advocate for change and bring about important policy decisions that can make a difference in people’s lives. In 2020, WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley spoke at the Foreign Affairs Council on Development, along with the European Parliament’s Committees on Development (DEVE) and on Foreign Affairs (AFET).

He also addressed the ministerial meeting of the EU and Latin American & Caribbean (LAC) states to debrief the ministers on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the LAC region. WFP also worked together with the Croatian and German Presidencies of the Council of the European Union to ensure that food security and humanitarian assistance remained on the top of the EU agenda.


New funding received in 2020

European Member States + EC = EUR 1,94 billion
European Member States = EUR 1,47 billion
European Commission (EC) = EUR 465 million
DG ECHO = EUR 270 million
DG INTPA = EUR 92 million
DG NEAR = EUR 103 million

WFP Country Offices with most EC funding

lebanon-map with eur 113,7 million


EUR 113,7 million

yemen map: eur 47,5 million


EUR 47,5 million

South Sudan map: eur 30,6 million


EUR 30,6 million

malawi map - eur 16,8 million


EUR 16,8 million

Guatemala map eur 13 million


EUR 13 million

EC Contributions to WFP in the past three years

EUR 466 million


EUR 613 million


EUR 936 million





For WFP, responding to emergencies — whatever their cause or location — is second nature.

But COVID-19 is unprecedented.

Our partnership with the European Union has been essential for WFP to properly address the impact of the pandemic. Support from the EU and its Team Europe initiative helped the humanitarian community sustain and scale up life-saving operations.



About two-thirds of WFP’s life-saving food assistance goes to people facing severe food crises. Last year, WFP was able to respond to pressing food needs in the highest-level emergencies (also known as Level 3 or L3 emergencies) thanks to EU funding.

Of these crises, most were affected by conflict and insecurity, with COVID-19 further compounding these challenges. Parts of Yemen, South Sudan, Northeast Nigeria and West Africa’s Central Sahel were of severe concern.

Insecurity also continued to push people out of their homes and forced families to flee — increasing food insecurity among the displaced while putting an extra strain on their host communities.

Peace and food security go hand in hand.

Together with partners like the EU, WFP works to help those affected by conflict across the world — saving lives and preventing people from slipping into famine.



While the highest-level emergencies drew global attention, WFP continued to work in countries facing ‘forgotten’ humanitarian crises — places that receive limited international attention in spite of growing needs.

WFP and the EU remained committed to leaving no one behind.

Throughout 2020, WFP and the EU remained committed to leaving no one behind and supporting people in need across the globe, including those living in forgotten crises brought on by conflict, climate change and economic downturn.





While the emergence of the coronavirus in 2020 has reshaped our lives, the world also grappled with one of the hottest years on record. Along with devastating heatwaves and wildfires, there have been floods, storms and city-sized locust outbreaks.

Climate change and food insecurity are fundamentally connected.

Its impact on food security can already be seen. And if global temperatures keep rising to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, an additional 189 million people could become more vulnerable to food insecurity. In line with its strategy under the European Green Deal, the EU supported WFP’s efforts to address climate-driven hunger, invest in sustainable food production and help build people’s resilience to extreme weather events.


Malnutrition at its extremes can be a matter of life and death. Its consequences on health are devastating, long lasting and often irreversible, and in the long term it can hold back entire countries, undermining economies and development.

To get to Zero Hunger, food is not enough. While food assistance in an emergency can save lives, the right nutrition at the right time can change lives.

Nutrition is key to improving human development.

As the leading organization providing food assistance to the world’s most vulnerable, WFP prioritizes nutrition as a core element of our work. Together with the EU, we set out to improve human development through nutrition-sensitive programmes, targeting women and children in particular.



Every day, countless children across the globe go to school on an empty stomach, which makes it hard to focus on lessons. Many simply do not go, as their families need them to help in the fields or around the house.

Building a child’s future builds their human capital.

Together with the EU, WFP puts a strong focus on supporting children’s nutrition, especially young girls, through its school feeding and health initiatives. Better health and nutrition allow children to learn and perform better, broadening their educational opportunities.

In benefitting children and their families, school feeding and health help build ‘human capital’ — the sum of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, experience and habits.



Every year, WFP provides vital food and nutrition assistance to around 100 million people. Yet, the number of people who do not have enough to eat worldwide is much higher — currently standing at 690 million. Reaching Zero Hunger by 2030 means meeting the needs of these people. WFP works with governments to ensure this can be done through national systems.

Social protection helps the most vulnerable through the most difficult times in their lives.

This is often referred to as social protection. Its systems typically include social assistance schemes — predictable and reliable transfers of cash, food or other goods. They can help people address the risks they face, such as poverty, social exclusion, inequality and food insecurity, and protect the most vulnerable from shocks and stresses throughout their lives.



Smallholder farmers produce most of the world’s food, but also tend to be food insecure and form the majority of people living in poverty. Lacking effective safety nets and income, they have little opportunity to improve their health, education, economic growth, or development in the broadest sense.

Sustainable food systems are only possible when smallholder farmers have the right opportunities.

Developing long-term solutions that raise farmers’ incomes and improve their livelihoods holds the key to building sustainable food systems, strong local economies and a world without hunger.

In 2020, WFP invested in wide partnerships, innovative solutions and context-specific support for farmers around the world that helped increase their income and strengthen their resilience, all thanks to donors like the EU.



With growing needs and a growing funding gap, it’s more important than ever to ensure that aid is delivered in the most efficient and cost-effective way so the highest proportion of funds reaches those in need. Where markets and financial sectors are functioning, cash transfers can be an effective solution to achieve food security and nutrition outcomes.

They can help strengthen local markets, serve as shock-responsive social safety nets, and empower individuals and their families to make choices that improve their food security and well-being.

Cash-based transfers empower individuals and families.

Cash transfers come in many forms. Depending on the context, they can be distributed as physical bank notes, e-money, through debit cards or vouchers which are redeemable at locally contracted shops.

Thanks to donors like the EU, which has a long-standing commitment to the use of cash in humanitarian settings, WFP implements cash-based transfers wherever the context allows it. In 2020, WFP transferred US$ 2.1 billion in cash-based assistance to people all around the world.