At the World Food Programme, we believe that food is the best vaccine against chaos – and we know that innovation and technology will help us administer this life-saving protection more effectively and to more people than ever before. The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize was a truly humbling recognition of everyone who supports WFP’s mission to save lives and change lives. This website is a celebration of the role of innovation and technology in transforming WFP’s operations, and empowering our partners - governments, NGOs and the entire humanitarian community - to do the same.
It is nearly 60 years since WFP started delivering food to communities left vulnerable by natural disasters or war. We have learned a lot since then: using innovation and technology to forge closer relationships with the people we serve, to help them decide what they need and to push ourselves to be even better every step of the way. In the early years, we introduced humanitarian airlifts and airdrops, launched email via radio connections and started humanitarian vehicle leasing. More recently, we have tapped into mobile technology, artificial intelligence, responsible data management and secure digital finance to empower the right people and put choice in the hands of the individual.
So innovation is nothing new at WFP, but the speed, scale and partnerships that drive it definitely are: each new advance builds bridges between food security, stability and sustainable development to support our beneficiaries’ journey toward self-reliance.
The results speak for themselves. WFP’s SCOPE platform gives 60 million people a digital identity, enabling them to access vital food assistance and other social support programs. Our cash based transfers distribute US$2 billion in assistance each year. Our Emergency Service Marketplace helped over 50 humanitarian organizations keep operating when COVID-19 hit, while our ShareTheMeal app has allowed members of the public to donate a meal to a hungry child more than 90 million times with just a few taps of their smartphones.
These are not just statistics - they represent real people. People like Nihaya and her three children, who live in a remote village in Jordan, but use WFP hydroponic techniques to increase their dairy yields and consequently their family’s income.
Or young men like Yasser, who had to stop his education when he fled Syria, working odd jobs to feed his family until a WFP training program gave him access to the digital jobs market.
Or families like Anwara’s in Bangladesh, who live in the world’s largest refugee camp, but can easily collect services from different organizations without physical contact, because WFP quickly swapped fingerprint ID readers for digital QR codes when the pandemic hit.
In a world where even a split second or a mile longer can be the difference between life and death, WFP’s tradition of using innovation and technology is enabling us to move closer to our goal of eliminating hunger by 2030. As you explore this website, I hope it will not only showcase why the Nobel Peace Prize rests on the broad shoulders of so many people, but also inspire you with ways you can help build the better world we all want to see. Let’s work together, in partnership, to achieve it.
To be effective, innovation and technology should allow the people we serve to unlock their true potential.
Allowing people affected by conflict to control where their next meal comes from also brings peace of mind for their families and stability for their communities. That’s why WFP’s H2Grow initiative helps people in difficult environments grow their own food using hydroponics, a soilless cultivation technique that uses 90% less water than traditional farming. Piloted in 2016, families were growing vegetables in urban desert slums of Peru, while in Algeria, a Sahrawi refugee engineer simplified and adapted the solution to grow fresh greens for local livestock. Since then, it has been launched in 10 countries, bolstering food security for refugees in Kenya and Chad and alleviating hunger in Palestine.
As well as having an immediate impact on food security, conflict and displacement destroy livelihoods and leave young people with little prospect of rebuilding a more stable future. To tackle this, WFP launched The Empowerment in Action (EMPACT) vocational programmes, which help refugees and host communities build digital skills, connect with online work opportunities and generate sustainable income to put food on the table for their families. Since 2016, EMPACT has improved life for more than 33,000 people in Iraq, Lebanon, Kenya and Turkey, while reducing the digital divide among communities hit by conflict.
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Smallholder farmers produce most of the world’s food, which means we can only overcome the threats created by food insecurity if they can overcome poverty, reduced productivity and limited market access. To create more stable livelihoods and sustainable local food systems, WFP’s Farm2Go app connects famers with training to boost productivity and with local markets to boost sales. The app also provides farming organizations with a digital tracking system, with the potential for them to share the latest financial, weather and agricultural information to build resilience against future shocks. Farm2Go is currently used by nearly 3,000 farmers in Kenya and Rwanda, but will be rolled out to 40 countries.
WFP empowers communities and governments to manage climate risks and adapt to climate extremes. In 2020, WFP continued to develop a portfolio of livestock insurance products that ensure pastoralists and smallholder farmers do not suffer losses from droughts. Specifically, WFP is scaling up its Satellite Index Insurance for Pastoralists in Ethiopia (SIIPE) programme, providing 15,500 pastoralist households with index-based livestock insurance, and recently adding 5,000 smallholder farmer households in Zambia. SIIPE integrates mobile and satellite technology into microfinance solutions, moving from asset replacement to asset protection. When a risk to the insured livestock is detected, insurance companies distribute payouts directly to participating pastoralists via mobile bank accounts.
Yasser escaped the war in his native Syria and fled to Lebanon, working odd jobs to put food on the table before finding a home in Iraq and receiving training through EMPACT, ultimately empowering himself to support his family through digital job opportunities.
Every second counts in the fight against hunger and WFP and its partners can hear the clock ticking. Doing things better and faster means forging partnerships with the people we serve – in their local contexts. Time can make the difference between life and death and we can’t afford to waste it on solutions that aren’t context specific.
More than just a humanitarian monster truck, the SHERP is an amphibious vehicle capable of traversing the most difficult terrain to enable life-saving supplies to reach the dangerous last mile, supporting WFP’s operations where airdrops are not possible or not cost-effective. Since field-testing in the Democratic Republic of Congo two years ago, WFP has deployed SHERPs following Cyclone Idai in Mozambique and flooding in South Sudan, and is now exploring options to develop a self-driving version.
WFP enables the humanitarian community to respond to emergencies around the world, and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit deeply impacting global transport markets, WFP stepped up to help. Through the Emergency Service Marketplace, a brand new digital booking platform, WFP opened free-to-access cargo movement services for UN agencies and NGOs working to respond to COVID-19 and existing humanitarian crises. By land, sea and air, the Marketplace has allowed more than 100 organizations to send over 90,000 m3 of vital health and humanitarian cargo to 159 countries around the world, keeping humanitarian operations running despite global supply chain disruptions.
Even a crisis that halts commercial travel can’t stop humanitarian workers getting to the people who need them. WFP’s Humanitarian Booking Hub provides a single, seamless access point for accommodation, air and ground travel and medical services. It has powered services for 2,600 UN vehicles, 1,380 COVID-19 response flights, 285 UNHAS flights, 260 UN guesthouses, 150 UNDSS hotels, 65 UN Clinics, and 35 UN counselors. The Humanitarian Booking Hub even stepped up to the pandemic, with its Global Air Passenger Service serving 20,000 humanitarian passengers for COVID-19 safe flights to 68 destinations for 384 organizations. Meanwhile, the COVID Restrictions Map provided real-time updates on commercial flights, travel restrictions, quarantine and testing requirements.
When crisis hits and communication goes down, every second can feel like an eternity. That’s true whether you’re a victim trying to contact loved ones, a government trying to inform citizens or a humanitarian trying to coordinate an emergency response. Recognizing that, WFP’s Fast IT and Technology Emergency Support Team (FITTEST) and the 29 partners of the WFP-led Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) are on hand within 48 hours to work with local partners and reconnect communities. From restoring mobile networks and internet connectivity to setting up security systems or getting local radio stations back on the air, they keep humanitarians safe and serving affected populations.
“By leveraging the Emergency Service Marketplace, our teams delivered millions of life-saving supplies to those who needed them most, no matter the obstacle posed by the pandemic. It’s a testament to the power of technology and our partnership in rising to and overcoming unprecedented challenges."
Paul Molinaro, Chief, Operations Support and Logistics at the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.
As the largest humanitarian organization in the world fighting hunger, we solve immense logistical puzzles every day. And we do this with a spirit of innovation and a curiosity for technology. Scaling up solutions to these puzzles brings us closer to the people we serve.
Being able to quickly assess the impact of a disaster is critical to delivering the right response. Drones are a game changer for humanitarians trying to do exactly that, offering low-operating costs and rapid deployment, even in difficult weather conditions. WFP has been helping to train the humanitarian community and pre-positioning equipment in disaster-prone countries since 2017, which meant it was able to help local authorities carry out rapid, detailed assessments when Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique in 2019. With responsible handling, drones can be used at scale to help in activities including crop and livestock monitoring; flood mapping; damage assessments; communications connectivity and cargo delivery.
WFP grew from the idea that people with food in one country wanted to share it with people going hungry in another, building food security, stability and peace. Five years ago, that tradition got an update with the ShareTheMeal app which lets a new generation share food with people in need. From just US$0.80, anyone can feed a child for a day through anything from school meals in the Republic of the Congo to food deliveries in Syria, while the ease and transparency of the app mean even the smallest donations add up to offer food security where it’s needed most.
Since 2018, WFP’s HungerMapLIVE has been using near real time data has been using the daily data WFP collects through a network of global call centres and artificial intelligence to help the humanitarian community monitor food security as it is now, predict trends and make more informed decisions in over 90 countries. The online platform system pulls, and analyzes and visualizes metrics, including food security, nutrition, weather, hazards, conflicts and population size. It also monitors COVID-19’s progress across different income groups to provide actionable information in a rapidly changing world.
In Southeast Asia, intense monsoon seasons often result in massive floods. The situation is even more critical in Cox’s Bazar, where nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees shelter in the world’s largest camp. The Site Maintenance Engineering Project (SMEP), a joint operations partnership with WFP, UNHCR and IOM, have collaborated to develop critical infrastructure. WFP Engineering continues to refine a live flood inundation model with new data, adapting to changing terrain and infrastructure, which has been a vital resource to identify needs and envision plans to ensure accessible paths to food distribution sites and health facilities for emergency response missions.
In 2017, Los Angeles-based couple Poonam and Nishkaam gave up throwing a lavish wedding to instead donate 40,000 meals to fight hunger. Their #MillionMealsforLove challenge in ShareTheMeal has raised almost 2 million meals with 12,720 supporters. “Sharing a meal is one of the most fundamental things that we do as human beings” - Nishkaam
Great ideas often start small like a seed planted in a vast field, but they have the potential to sprout, flourish, and transform an entire landscape. Innovation and technology can breed solutions that change the entire humanitarian ecosystem, introducing choices to governments, communities and families where only barriers once existed.
One thing people often have to leave behind when fleeing from conflicts or crises are their identity papers, which then makes it harder to get help. That’s why WFP provides secure digital identities that let people not only access assistance, but also decide what they need. WFP’s SCOPE platform provides more than 50 million people with digital identities that let us transfer cash and let them purchase from local markets. Likewise, using blockchain technology in refugee camps, such as Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, gives secure, simple access to aid from multiple humanitarian partners while improving accountability and optimizing assistance.
When people’s families are at risk in challenging contexts, they have many questions about how to protect their loved ones and accessing reliable, updated information is critical. To make that possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, WFP deployed chatbots that use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to automate conversations with vulnerable populations. Chatbots have been developed to share information about WFP initiatives and COVID-19 measures and additional health-related tips in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Two-way conversations between people in need and humanitarian agencies will be possible with machine learning-enriched, culturally relevant chatbots which are being developed by the WFP-led Emergency Telecommunications Cluster for use in Iraq and Libya.
With an estimated investment above US$40 billions globally, the same school feeding programmes that help 388 million children to learn better and build a better future for their communities can also offer an important sense of food security when conflict, disasters or pandemics disrupt local food chains, education and health services. PLUS School Menus is an easy-to-use menu optimization software to calculate and select the most cost-effective and diverse meals for students worldwide. Thanks to its advanced algorithm, the result not only meets the nutritional requirements of different age groups while saving up to 20% in cost, but simultaneously ensures menu diversity, respect to local eating habits and makes the most of local economies to provide the best produce.
Life in the world’s largest refugee camp is now easier for Anwara and families like hers. It’s because they can now collect assistance from multiple humanitarian organizations, including WFP, in one go. The system is designed to be touch-operated but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a digital QR code is issued allowing people to collect assistance without having to handle potentially contagious devices.