Recurring food crises worldwide have highlighted the need to change the thinking around emergencies and development, decompartmentalizing these respective approaches. Working on the basis that humanitarian assistance which only provides temporary crisis relief rarely prepares populations for future crises, providing additional support to boost vulnerable populations’ resilience is all about dealing with the issue of food security from a more comprehensive and long-term perspective. Programmed food assistance is a key part of this framework.
Programmed food assistance is mainly targeted at bolstering the resilience of populations and fighting malnutrition. France allocated €39 million to programmed food assistance in 2019 and €50.6 million in 2020. Given the scale of food insecurity in the world, the choices made as part of programmed food assistance aim to optimize the use of these funds by targeting what France deems to be priority countries and neglected areas, and by promoting a return to greater food autonomy for vulnerable populations.
Programme food assistance thus enables France to help populations become more resilient, be it in emergency situations or in the context of chronic food insecurity (regions heavily affected by climate risks, such as the Sahel or the Horn of Africa) or extended crisis contexts due to conflicts, for example in countries bordering Syria. Purchase of foodstuffs on local or regional markets is encouraged, in accordance with the FAO and WFP strategies. This way of operating is essential for vulnerable populations and helps local production and commercialization to recover at the same time as providing food assistance through monetary transfers or food stamps.
A wide variety of resilience support tools are used across these projects financed with programmed food assistance including seed distribution, training in nutrition or agricultural techniques, land restoration work and support for school cafeterias. These operating methods help provide long-term prevention of food insecurity in fragile areas which are exposed to climate risks. Moreover, 50% of projects financed include a nutrition component.
The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs chooses projects on the basis of important priorities: climate, nutrition, gender, restarting agriculture in vulnerable areas, use of new food assistance tools according to the London Food Assistance Convention (money transfers and actions to revitalize the economy), ratified by France in June 2017, France’s 2029-2024 International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture (with its objective 5 devoted to food assistance).
In 2020, the total budget of the programmed food assistance, allocated by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs totalled €50.6 million. The increasing number of crises, mainly due to the climate or conflicts, and their increasingly long-term nature, has meant that programmed food assistance will be used for emergency operations together with work to support the resilience of communities.
The number of crises has also grown in Africa. A balance had to be found between responding to new humanitarian emergencies (COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on food insecurity, conflicts and droughts) and crises (migratory locusts in East Africa) and the need to maintain high levels of involvement in regions with chronic food and nutritional instability, such as the Sahel.
In 2020, more than 63% of programmed food assistance benefited Africa (€32.3 million) and particularly the Sahel (G5 countries), the leading recipient (€16 million).
In West Africa, programmed food assistance mobilized €15.5 million in 2020. The multiple causes of food insecurity in the region (climate change, market disruption, political instability, significant poverty) require continuous monitoring and support to implement resilience support tools, as well as ad hoc emergency responses during periods of severe food and nutritional insecurity. Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger were the main recipients.
In Southern and Eastern Africa, France’s programmed food assistance was used in areas heavily impacted by several years of successive droughts in Ethiopia, Madagascar, Somalia and South Sudan. The migratory locust crisis also attracted special attention to East Africa.
In 2020, a total of €9.2 million was allocated to this region.
In Central Africa, political instability, the presence of refugees and the food crisis due to Boko Haram’s actions was the reason behind support for Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon. A total of €7.6 million was allocated to this area in 2020, mainly to projects to tackle malnutrition and to revitalize farming.
The Middle East is the second leading recipient (€11.5 million), with Yemen, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Humanitarian consequences of the Syrian crisis, affecting Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, as well as the crisis in Iraq were targeted by programmed food assistance. The humanitarian situation requires a significant international response to support host countries to avoid widespread destabilization of the region.
Lebanon received €3.5 million in aid, €1 million of the total aid following the explosion in Beirut on 4 August 2020.
Yemen is facing a major conflict and the people in certain areas are on the brink of famine. In 2020, €3 million was allocated to the people of Yemen.
France has also maintained its involvement in the Palestinian Territories which suffer from chronic problems that require social safety nets to tackle food insecurity (€2 million in 2020)..
€4.2 million in programmed food assistance has been allocated to Asia, particularly in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar (Rohingya crisis).
When it comes to the Americas and Caribbean, Haiti received €1 million and Venezuela, €1.1 million.
The leading partner among organizations that received French programmed food assistance remains the World Food Programme (WFP) with €27.1 in 2020. Followed by non-governmental organizations that received €8.8 million, the FAO (€4.6 million) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) (€4.4 million), UNRWA  (€3 million) and UNICEF (€1.6 million).
Updated: October 2020
 UNRWA: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East