The World Food Program warned that cuts in humanitarian aid could push 24 million more people to the edge of starvation over the coming year.
Rome-based WFP said on Tuesday it faces a more than 60% funding shortfall this year, the highest in its 60-year history, as governments increasingly scale back on international humanitarian aid due to multiple crises linked to factors such as inflation, conflict and climate change.
WFP released a new analysis showing each 1% cut in aid to its US$5.2 billion annual budget could push 400,000 people toward starvation.
“With the number of people around the world facing starvation at record levels, we need to be scaling up life-saving assistance – not cutting it,” WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain said.
“If we don’t receive the support we need to avert further catastrophe," she said, "the world will undoubtedly see more conflict, more unrest, and more hunger.”
Just a day earlier, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced plans to further scale back its 2024 budget and slash more jobs.
The United States, which contributes US$2 billion, is by far the WFP's largest donor, followed by Germany, at US$537 million, the European Commission, US$310 million, Canada, US$290 million, and Benin, US$224 million, despite its status as one of Africa's poorest nations.
Since the U.N. food agency has no independent source of funds, it depends on about 60 governments, corporate-giving programs and individuals to make cash or in-kind donations.
Fear of a 'doom loop'
Because of the severe funding gaps, WFP says it has been forced to reduce the food rations it provides in almost half of its operations including hotspots like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Congo, Haiti, Jordan, Palestine, South Sudan, Somalia and Syria that hav far-reaching, deperate needs.
Its experts say they fear a humanitarian "doom loop" is being triggered, forcing the organization to focus on saving the lives of people facing starvation at the expense of people going hungry.
WFP says it expanded its nutritional programs to a record 28.5 million women and children worldwide, yet the number of acutely malnourished women and children has risen to nearly 36 million among its 19 biggest nutrition operations.
Up to 783 million people, or about 1-in-10 worldwide, go to bed hungry each night, based on WFP's latest estimates from 79 of the 120 nations where the organization works.
At last 345 million people face high levels of food insecurity this year, up by nearly 200 million people since the COVID-19 pandemic. WFP estimates almost 47 million people in more than 50 countries are a step away from famine.
Some 45 million children under the age of five are painfully thin from acute malnutrition, it says, which has caused wasting and left their immune systems weak and vulnerable to developmental delays, disease and death.
This story has been updated with additional details.