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close this bookTackling Hunger in a World Full of Food: Tasks Ahead for Food Aid (WFP)
close this folder6. Tasks ahead
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSaving life, rebuilding livelihoods
View the documentAttacking hunger from birth
View the documentAiding people to gain access to food
View the documentA sharper focus for the future


6.1 Food aid is a keystone of the international community's attempts to uphold fundamental human rights relating to life and food security. Any genuinely human-focused development cannot ignore the problem of hunger. Hungry people are not well-served by, and cannot effectively compete in, markets even if they are functioning well. Their capacity to participate in economic growth and development is still further constrained when limited resource endowments are compounded by market weaknesses. Food aid can compensate for inadequacies in both endowments and markets by giving people the chance to sustain themselves and enhance their capabilities to participate in the marketplace.
6.2 The guiding principle of food aid must be to reach people who need it most, primarily in food-deficit countries, at times when they need it most, and in ways that achieve lasting impact as well as short term help. Thus, the first claim on scarce food aid resources has to be targeted actions that address one or other of the major dimensions of current hunger. There are therefore three main ways in which food aid, as an increasingly valuable and scarce resource, will need to be refined and strengthened in coming years.

Saving life, rebuilding livelihoods

6.3 The first goal is to provide timely, appropriate and adequate relief interventions. The main victims of emergencies, women and children, must be brought as partners into the dynamics of relief design and implementation. Women must be the principal managers of food aid resources, and they should be able to move on with their life after a crisis with new skills in hand. Even emergency interventions have long term as well immediate aspects; where possible they should be treated as opportunities for investing in the future.
6.4 Complex emergencies require political action as well as humanitarian responses. They must be addressed not only by food aid but by diplomacy and debate that allows for a resolution of the causes of deep-seated resentment fuelling conflict. And emergency interventions must lead progressively, and as early as possible, into post-crisis rehabilitation. Relief and rehabilitation initiatives must ensure that the resilience of households and rural economies are strengthened and that development investments can subsequently take hold.

Attacking hunger from birth

6.5 Secondly, the focus must always be on people. It will be especially important to alleviate the hunger of women and children at critical times in their lives. Their well-being during these times of particular need has a bearing not only on their own future, but also on their ability to contribute to development in general. Un-met food needs early in life will lead to health problems, loss of mental vigour and reduced productivity. Many such losses can never be recouped; but they can and will be compounded if inadequate nutrition continues.

Food is a preventative medicine

6.6 Targeted actions are necessary both to tackle food insufficiencies head on through interventions focused on enhancing nutrition and to enable hungry people to benefit from health, education, skills and income-earning initiatives. In this sense, food is a preventative medicine. And providing food aid to households through women further enhances its potential as a resource for human growth. Women are central to the fight against hunger.

Aiding people to gain access to food

Food aid works in partnership with market forces

6.7 The chronically hungry have a difficult task in fulfilling either their human or economic potential. Since hunger perpetuates poverty, persistent hunger must be removed if sustainable food security is to be attained. Consequently, the third priority must be food aid interventions that assist food insecure households by-passed by mainstream development activities, particularly in situations where there is insufficient food in the market and food prices are volatile. Food aid can provide direct assistance to people who lack purchasing power, and can strengthen markets by building transport infrastructure or enhancing marketing systems through local monetization and local food purchases. Food aid is not an inherent competitor to, or disruptor of, the market; it can and should be a natural partner. The hungry of the world will best be served through an enhanced partnership in the coming decades.

6.8 Of course, food aid is not the answer to all hunger in the world. Some of it can better be addressed through non-food resources and/or the more generalized benefits of macroeconomic development. But, targetted food aid is the premier resource for addressing the urgent, current needs of hungry people in food-deficit countries. For those needs to be adequately addressed in coming years, the level of targeted aid reaching the hungry in these countries needs to be protected from fluctuations in global supply, particularly in years of high world food prices, and enhanced according to need.

A sharper focus for the future

Food air must sustain and enhance lives
6.9 Food aid is a scarce resource. This is no longer debatable. It is a premium resource-a resource to serve people, not a bi-product of agriculture. By extension, more will be demanded of food aid than in the past. Food aided projects will have to match the standards of cost-effectiveness and efficiency of capital-assisted projects. And food aid will have to do more than save lives. It will have to sustain and enhance lives.
6.10 How can this be achieved? The answer lies, firstly, with a reallocation of supplies:

Shifting current food aid allocations from less-poor recipient countries to wards most needy cases (least-developed and low-income food deficit coun tries, of which there were 88 in the developing world in 1995);

Targeting a greater portion of food aid towards poorest regions of those countries, avoiding unsustainable national-level programmes.

Ensuring that food resources are effectively delivered into the hands of people who have most responsibility for household food security; typically women.

Achieving greater stability in food aid supplies, at least for interventions designed to help the most hungry, particularly in years of volatile world food prices.


Food aid alone is not enough
6.11 The second part of the answer lies with a greater mutual support between food and non-food resources. Food aid alone will not be able to adequately address the scale of hunger that will face us in coming decades. Efforts aimed at raising agricultural productivity and output as well as purchasing power among hungry people and food-deficit countries must be stepped up. Yet, neither will increased food production or complementary financial transfers be sufficient to tackle the problems of food security, particularly among the millions facing hunger in more remote regions. While food deficits related to 'permanent' emergencies, weak markets, inappropriate economic policies and armed conflict continue to cripple growth in many countries there will be a crucial role to be played by targeted food aid.
6.12 Closer partnerships are needed between food and non-food resources to ensure that hunger is treated as a mainstream development problem. Recent efforts to better integrate food aid into recipient country food security and nutrition strategies and safety-net programmes have to be broadened and strengthened. The planning of food assistance on the basis of country-specific strategies, and its integration with other assistance, is a first step toward more effective partnerships. Beyond that, government, donor and NGO partners all need to be present and effective in regions, and among households, worst-affected by hunger if we are to maximize the potential impact of food aid and other investments on hungry people.