Australia is sending an additional AU$34.7 million to support the World Food Programme (WFP)’s efforts throughout the Indo-Pacific region, according to a press release from the office of Marise Payne, Australia’s minister for foreign affairs.
The funds will be used for a broad array of programs, with particular focus on highly vulnerable groups like women and girls. Hunger rates are climbing alongside the surge in COVID-19 infections, in what has been called a “shadow crisis,” and unless interventions are made, up to 41 million people face starvation this year.
The WFP, alongside other UN agencies and humanitarian groups, is leading the effort to provide food aid, livelihood assistance, and agricultural support.
“WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020 in recognition of its role supporting international peace and security,” the press release states. “Under Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery, we have prioritised health security, stability, and economic recovery, working with the priorities of our partners in our region.”
Australia’s latest WFP commitment will be put to immediate use.
In Myanmar, emergency assistance will be provided to 360,000 people affected and displaced by conflict. Funding will also go to Afghanistan, where 14 million people face food insecurity amid COVID-19 disruptions, drought, and conflict. Australia’s commitment will also support programs in Indonesia and the Philippines, according to the press release.
Australia is one of the leading donors to the WFP. Prior to the most recent donation, the country had sent US$66 million to the WFP this year, surpassing the country's 2020 commitment of US$53 million.
Most of this money goes toward supporting food programs in the Indo-Pacific region, which faces chronic challenges around food security.
Across the broader Asia-Pacific region, more than 2 billion people were unable to afford a healthy diet prior to the pandemic, 350 million people were undernourished, and 31.5 million children were stunted. These numbers have risen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WFP’s work in the region goes beyond emergency parcels of rice and oil being trucked in and handed out to community members. The organisation provides nutritional support to children and mothers, offers cash-based support, develops long-term solutions to food insecurity, and ultimately aims to eliminate hunger worldwide.
But the WFP is unable to achieve these goals without funding. Right now, the organisation is calling for US$6 billion in particular to prevent 41 million people across 43 countries from starving.