Flexible funding saves lives and builds hunger-free futures

Axel Brumberg - WFP
23 July 2018
At a moment of unparalleled needs, Belgium’s flexible funding will allow the UN World Food Programme to respond quickly to crises, save lives and build resilience.

Last year the number of hungry people globally increased for the first time in a decade and more funding than ever before is required to help them. With multiple large-scale food crises occurring around the world and a shortage of funds, greater efficiency and flexible funding are crucial to reach the most vulnerable communities which are at risk of being left behind.

Under the agreement known as the Grand Bargain, concluded at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, donors agreed to not just give more, but also give better by being more flexible. Numerous governments committed to progressively reduce earmarking, with an aim of achieving a global target of 30 percent of humanitarian funding with fewer restrictions by 2020.

Belgium, as one of the signing partners of the Grand Bargain, has proven its commitment to honour the agreement. This year, the Belgian government contributed €14.4 million to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) over four years in fully flexible, multi-annual funds. WFP can allocate the money according to its priorities and can easily access funds in sudden emergencies or when certain operations face funding shortfalls.

This year, the Belgian government contributed €14.4 million to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) over four years in fully flexible, multi-annual funds.

This was the case in Iraq in 2017. In January last year WFP was providing food assistance to nearly 400,000 people displaced by the fighting in Mosul. Yet insufficient funding forced WFP to cut food rations while continued fighting caused more and more people to flee their homes without resources to feed their families. Thanks to flexible support from donors, WFP was able to quickly replenish its stocks of food, bringing much-needed relief to thousands of Iraqis escaping violence and terror.

In addition to its most recent contribution of fully flexible funding, Belgium has also consistently supported WFP’s Immediate Response Account (IRA) and is currently its second biggest donor. This life-saving facility allows WFP to rapidly respond to emergencies where no contributions are available or forecast. IRA funding is un-earmarked, making it possible for WFP to address life-threatening situations whenever they occur.

Thanks to flexible support from donors, WFP was able to quickly replenish its stocks of food, bringing much-needed relief to thousands of Iraqis escaping violence and terror.

WFP operations in the Kasai province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are some of many that have benefitted from IRA funds. In mid-2016, inter-ethnic tensions and violence spread in Kasai, causing massive displacement. In September 2017, there were 3.2 million severely food-insecure people in the Kasai region alone, with close to 400,000 children at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition.

Since the emergence of the Kasai crisis, funding shortfalls proved to be a major impediment to WFP’s response. Once the crisis was declared a Level 3 emergency – the United Nations’ highest classification, reserved for the most severe and complex crises – WFP allocated resources from the IRA to rapidly fill the funding gaps. This allowed WFP to scale up its assistance tenfold between September and December 2017. Thanks to generous IRA contributions from donors like Belgium, WFP was able to provide food assistance to the people in Kasai during a dire period of need.

The examples of the DRC and Iraq illustrate how crucial flexible funding is for WFP operations and the lives of the most vulnerable people living in conflict-stricken areas. Yet governments that provide this kind of funding are still very much in the minority.

A person evaluates the malnutrition of a kid on the arms of his mother by measuring the thickness of its arm.
© WFP/Jaques David

The examples of the DRC and Iraq illustrate how crucial flexible funding is for WFP operations and the lives of the most vulnerable people living in conflict-stricken areas. Yet governments that provide this kind of funding are still very much in the minority. Most donors still specify how and where the money can be spent and therefore the level of flexible funding has flatlined over the past several years. In 2017 the share of fully flexible contributions versus WFP’s overall income was 5% – the lowest it had been in more than 20 years.

The availability of flexible funding determines WFP’s ability to ensure swift and effective response to underfunded crises, including new and protracted emergencies, as well as development challenges. Flexible contributions are paramount to create synergies between humanitarian relief and resilience building, fostering the sought-after humanitarian-development nexus. Donors such as the Belgian government, who step up their multi-year flexible funding commitments, help us strategically plan and implement short-term and long-term solutions leading to a Zero Hunger world.

Humanitarian aid DR Congo Iraq World Food Programme
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