WFP and COVID-19

Stories from the field on how innovation, technology and digital transformation are enabling a rapid response

The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

COVID-19 makes WFP’s work more urgent and more complex than ever. Already mobilizing to meet the needs of up to 138 million people, the organization must now also rise to meet the demands of the biggest humanitarian response in its history – a pandemic that could simultaneously double the number of people suffering from acute hunger and multiply the logistic challenges to reach them. To continue protecting the wellbeing of our staff, delivering vital assistance and supporting the humanitarian community through logistics services, WFP is overcoming those challenges by combining learnings from past experiences, such as Ebola, with innovative approaches, technologies and digital transformation.

The family in this video is fictitious, but the problems and solutions are not. Here, you can learn more about the innovations and technology allowing WFP to maintain operations and to step up to COVID-19.

Voices from the Field

Learn first hand how WFP staff around the world are using creative solutions to keep delivering timely and vital assistance despite the pandemic.

Streamlining humanitarian assistance

Blockchain technology is making it possible for 600,000 refugees across Jordan and Bangladesh to safely collect assistance from WFP and other humanitarian organizations in one go. Swapping fingerprint identification for a digital QR code avoids any need for people to touch devices.

WFP e-Shop & home delivery

WFP Somalia developed an app that allows families to redeem their cash assistance and order food, including home delivery. It gives families real-time market information and fosters price transparency across retailers, ensuring nutritious food is accessible to all. Since the launch of the home delivery component of the e-Shop, almost 40,000 successful home deliveries have been made supporting 240,000 beneficiaries. In the month of August alone, more than 4,000 home deliveries were made to over 25, 000 beneficiaries.

Nutrition in Algeria - Refugee Chef’s TV Show

"Make great things from less" is a TV show produced and moderated by Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf refugee camps in western Algeria. Since 2011, the presenter, Madame Haha, has shared simple, tasty, varied and nutritious recipes for the food distributed in the camps. With the threat of COVID-19 , the show has also played an important role in educating people about hygiene and how healthy eating helps boost immune systems.

Cashless payments

In Iraq, WFP is working with food shops in camps for displaced and refugee families to accept new “cashless” payments through mobile phones. This new solution - like MPESA, Apple or Android Pay - reduces the need for handling banknotes and helps avoid the need for people to move around more than necessary. What started as a COVID-19 mitigation measure has resulted in a first for the country’s humanitarian community.

Honduras - school meals during COVID-19

School closures in Honduras to prevent the spread of COVID-19 stopped the distribution of hot meals for 1.2 million children. Honduran authorities took action to allow students to continue receiving their food, involving local authorities, WFP and UNICEF, parents and teachers.

Tracking & informing decisions for school meals

The mass closure of schools means that nearly 370 million children are missing out on school meals, often their only meal of the day. WFP is tracking the global impact of school closures on schoolchildren through the Global School Feeding Map, shaping the response and sharing critical data with key stakeholders, including partner governments and donors, to help inform decision-making.

Chatbot helplines delivering vital information

The WFP-led Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) is using helpline chatbots enriched by machine learning to provide easy access to accurate health and safety information. A chatbot is an artificial intelligence-based computer programme or a text or voice conversation with a human being. Citizens in Iraq, Libya and the Central African Republic will be able to call and ask questions such as, "Where can I get tested for COVID-19?", "Where is the closest medical center?"

Social protection in quarantine

When deploying community quarantine to protect its citizens, the Government of the Philippines needed a fast, reliable way to offer social support and maintain accountability. They turned to WFP’s beneficiary information and transfer management platform, SCOPE, which they had used in response to emergencies, such as Typhoon Ompong. Ministry staff were immediately able to begin distributing cash assistance to over 460,000 families.

Geospatial Information applications during COVID-19

With the pandemic disrupting global transport networks, the WFP Geospatial Support Unit created platforms for the humanitarian community to monitor international boundary and travel restrictions, flight connections and much more.

Digital guidance for field staff

WFP’s Emergency Field Operations Pocketbook now features a dedicated chapter on COVID-19, making it easier for field staff to navigate and find urgent information for field operations, including best practices, checklists, templates ready for download and contact lists. The pocketbook is available as an app and allows for offline access for those with unstable internet connection.

Protective equipment for field staff

Responding quickly to COVID-19, WFP’s Wellness Division has procured more than 6.7 million Personal Protective Equipment and Office Hygiene Items, including masks, hand sanitizers, and infra-red thermometers. Additionally, 6000 pulse oximeters (devices measuring oxygen in the blood) are being dispatched to Country Offices.

Enabling collective humanitarian response

Underpinning WFP’s work on global clusters and shared humanitarian services, the WFP-powered Humanitarian Booking Hub is a one-stop shop for humanitarian workers for the booking of UN accommodation, medical services, travel, the WFP-managed Global Passenger Air services for COVID, and more. The Hub’s mobile app has transformed the provision of field services for travelling humanitarian staff, while allowing the global sharing of information such as key updates and travel guidance for COVID-19.

Remote Market Functionality Index

Retail shops are crucial for people to buy local and nutritious food, and other essential products such as hygiene items. With COVID-19, the government of the Dominican Republic quickly implemented a temporary cash-based transfer program which would boost the purchasing power of 6 million people. The Market Functionality Index is a powerful tool which allows WFP to assess the capacities of a market to function over time and adjust cash-based transfer programmes accordingly.

The Choice Model in Jordan

Cash-based transfers empower hungry families to make choices based on their basic needs. In Jordan, WFP pushes empowerment further by allowing refugees to choose how to redeem their benefits, in addition to how to spend them. With the onset of COVID-19 and ATMs and banks closed, the Country Office adapted quickly to make sure refugees could still access their assistance and expanded ATM coverage tenfold, allowing refugees to redeem cards at different ATMs across the country.

Remote Hotline

Everyone loves excellent customer service! It improves a company’s products and better cater to customer needs - why would humanitarian assistance be different? By implementing a remote hotline during COVID-19, WFP’s Jordan Country Office made sure humanitarian assistance was a two-way communication, providing hungry families with a one-stop shop for information, complaints and feedback.

Learn more about WFP’s response to COVID-19 in an era of innovation and digital transformation

Innovation, technology and digital transformation in COVID-19 response

How WFP is making real time, evidence-based decisions and works on innovative solutions to limit the spread of the virus

How innovations are WFP’s allies in the fight against coronavirus

WFP staff are looking at ways to beat the pandemic

Thematic report on digital transformation at WFP

A snapshot of WFP’s digital transformation initiatives and their results to date - combining the powers of innovation, technology and data in order to improve way WFP delivers assistance

WFP harnesses data, tech and partners to save lives

The Emergency Service Marketplace is a one-stop-shop for humanitarian partners in emergencies

Building Blocks

How blockchain is helping WFP’s fight against coronavirus in Bangladesh

WFP e-shop

Leveraging Somalia’s expansive and affordable mobile network, WFP Somalia developed the e-shop, an online food ordering and delivery marketplace

WFP’s Innovation Accelerator

Piloting and scaling-up innovations to respond to COVID-19

Near Real-time Food Security Monitoring during COVID-19

Providing necessary information for early action and mitigation

Supporting children’s well-being during the pandemic

UNICEF-WFP partnership on school feeding

A chance for every child

WFP’s 2020 - 2030 School Feeding Strategy in the context of COVID-19


How WFP supports small-holder farmers with digital services

How WFP, partners and innovators are disrupting world hunger

From idea to reality: A showcase on Farm2Go, an initiative supported by the Government of Belgium


Improving humanitarian assistance with unmanned aerial vehicles

SCOPE, WFP’s beneficiary information and transfer management platform

WFP is expanding its use of technology and data, and digitising its operations to better serve those in need.

Global innovation and technology map

See where WFP has teams working on innovation and digital transformation across the globe
Launch the Interactive Map

A global community funding the pandemic response

WFP’s fundraising app, ShareTheMeal, has completed two emergency fundraising goals supporting our COVID-19 response. The first goal was completed in just 10 days – thanks to their donor base of over 2 million people worldwide. Share your meal with their current COVID-19 fundraising goal here.