Embassy of Finland in Pretoria, South Africa

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has aggravated world hunger and multiplied global humanitarian needs. For this reason, Finland’s humanitarian assistance focuses on life-saving food in 2023.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other conflicts around the world have undermined global food security, which was already weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the number of people facing acute hunger has risen from 135 million before the pandemic to 345 million today. More than 800 million people are suffering from chronic hunger. Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen are facing the highest levels of hunger.

“Life-saving food assistance is among the most important needs in a crisis, be it a conflict, a natural disaster or a drought that drives people from their homes. This is why Finland emphasises food security in its humanitarian assistance this year,” says Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari.

Although the world market prices of food have returned to the pre-war level, inflation at country level is still raising the prices of food and undermining people’s ability to buy food. Most African countries are facing rates of inflation ranging from 20% to 40%. The fear is that rising rates of inflation and climate shocks will exacerbate acute hunger.

The World Food Programme (WFP), which Finland has funded with a total of EUR 20.9 million this year, is Finland’s key partner in food security matters. For example, the WFP is implementing the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which helps African countries facing shortages of grain and generates export revenue for Ukraine. Implementing the initiative helps stabilise global food prices.

Another important element of Finland’s food security efforts is the promotion of school meals globally, in which Finland has taken a leading role. This year, Finland is supporting the WFP’s school meals programmes and co-chairing with France the School Meals Coalition that promotes school meals globally.

“Supporting school meals is an important means of improving food security and addressing undernutrition in developing countries. For many children, school lunch is the only decent meal they have all day,” Minister Skinnari says.

The Coalition Member States’ examples show that developing school meals can also support businesses and promote growth throughout the community. The need for these kinds of holistic solutions will increase in future.

Finnish civil society organisations (CSOs), too, are providing valuable humanitarian assistance to improve food security in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Yemen.

Finland’s humanitarian assistance in 2023 so far totals EUR 103.4 million. Support to people suffering from the crisis in Ukraine accounts for the largest share of this assistance. Other regional focus areas include improving food security in Africa and protecting displaced persons and refugees in Africa and the Middle East.

Core funding of international humanitarian organisations accounts for more than one third of the total sum of assistance allocated this year. Core funding allows organisations to react quickly to humanitarian crises. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) through Finland’s core funding for the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region, can respond to the effects of the Sudan conflict, not only in Sudan, but also in the neighbouring countries. The earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria also demonstrated the significance of core funding.

Finland’s biggest partners in humanitarian assistance are the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Embassy of Finland in Pretoria, South Africa.