Lalthan Muhumed, a business woman in Wajir, Kenya, with her market produce ready for sale. Photo: Tintseh/World Bank


In the Sahel and Horn of Africa, both regions facing a persistent food and nutrition crisis driven by drought and exacerbated by conflict and fragility, the World Bank is scaling up short- and long-term responses to boost food and nutrition security, and to strengthen the resilience of food systems. The Bank is taking a multisectoral approach, supporting countries with financing, technical assistance, and analytics.


  • 1.8 million beneficiaries of food rations and food vouchers in Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali.
  • 8 million people provided with food and cash assistance in Ethiopia.
  • 3.3 million hectares of land benefitting from anti-locust assistance in Kenya, Djibouti, and Ethiopia.
  • 1.6 million pastoralists in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia protected from drought impacts.
  • 200 percent increase in households able to consume two meals/day after receiving assistance in Somalia post-2017 drought. 
  • The World Bank has scaled up its operational engagement to increase food and nutrition security (FNS), by making available $45 billion in financing globally, including $13.2 billion for West and Central Africa and $10.6 billion for East Africa.
    – From April 2022 to June 2023, new FNS lending commitments in the G5 Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger) totaled $923.8 million.
    – In the Horn of Africa, new FNS lending commitments from April 2022 through June 2023 totaled $1.54 billion.


A Mounting Crisis of Food and Nutrition Insecurity across the Continent

The global food and nutrition crisis has been intensifying since 2014; the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 221 million people across 54 IDA countries are facing acutely food-insecure conditions or worse – a 71 percent increase from 2019. Food insecurity is driven by a variety of interlinked causes including instability and related population displacements, the impact of weather extremes, disrupted food systems, limited food production, barriers to regional trade, poor policy choices, and the socioeconomic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the war in Ukraine has worsened the situation, leading to increased and volatile prices for food and other commodities.

Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a storm of factors – a food, fuel, and fertilizer crisis exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the economic impacts of COVID-19, rising inflation and debt, and extreme weather events resulting from climate change. It’s estimated that in five countries in the Sahel known as the G5 Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger)10.2 million people were food insecure from June to August 2023. Out of these, more than 900,000 people were in emergency situations, and in Burkina Faso and Mali more than 45,000 people faced famine. At least 36 million people across the Horn of Africa are severely food insecure as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia experience the worst drought in 40 years. In the aftermath of cyclone Freddy in 2023, Malawi and Mozambique saw the prices of food staples such as maize soar to 300 percent higher, worsening levels of food and nutrition insecurity.


A Multi-sectoral Approach to Food and Nutrition Security

The World Bank is one of the largest sources of development finance for addressing food and nutrition insecurity, committing over $60 billion in financing from 1980 until 2022, two-thirds of which came from IDA. This trend has been sustained; in April 2022 the Bank announced a comprehensive, global response to the food and nutrition security crisis, and has scaled up its operational engagement, surpassing its initial commitment of $30 billion over 15 months for global FNS response, and making $45 billion available through a combination of $22 billion in new lending and $23 billion from its existing portfolio.

The Bank is scaling up short- and long-term responses in four areas to boost FNS, reduce risks, and strengthen food systems: (i) supporting food production and producers with an emphasis on climate resilience, nutritional values, and the inclusion of small farmers and farm workers; (ii) facilitating increased trade in food and agricultural inputs, with support for resilient supply chains; (iii) supporting vulnerable households through social protection programs and essential health and nutrition services, and (iv) investing in sustainable food and nutrition security – reducing food losses, improving food safety and hygiene in distribution channels, and better linking production and consumption centers.

To achieve this, the Bank works across sectors to provide financing, technical assistance, and analytics like rapid country diagnostics and data-based monitoring instruments. IDA financing can be used to both support countries short term food security and to invest in the resilience of the food systems, ensuring food security in the long term. For example, two IDA interventions, the West Africa Food System Resilience Program (FSRP) and the FSRP for Eastern and Southern Africa, support 14 countries, 1 continental and 5 regional organizations with $2.4 billion increasing the resilience of the food systems. Almost 9.35 million direct beneficiaries, including farmers (with a focus on women and youth), small-scale processors, and agricultural medium, small, and micro-enterprises (MSMEs), will benefit from the FSRPs and it is planned that the financial and geographical scope of the programs will be widened.

To respond quickly to the emerging food crisis in the G5 Sahel, the World Bank has provided $422.5 million for emergency measures. This financing was available through three mechanisms, the activation of the Contingent Emergency Response Components (CERC) of WB projects, the deployment of new resources through the Crisis Response Window’s Early Response Financing (CRW ERF) and the reallocation of resources within existing projects. The Bank has activated CERCs in four key projects that have provided a total of $82 million of rapid assistance to vulnerable populations, including two projects in Chad (the Climate Resilience Agriculture and Productivity Enhancement Project and the Rural Mobility and Connectivity Project) and one project each in Mali (the Mali Drylands Project) and Niger (the Agriculture and Livestock Transformation project). Moreover, additional resources to respond to crises were provided to three projects with a total financing of $323 million, including $125 million from CRW ERF resources. These include Burkina Faso’s Emergency Local Development and Resilience Project, and Niger’s Regional Sahel Pastoralism Support Project II. In Niger, $17.5 million of the Climate Smart Agriculture Support project were reallocated to financed emergency measures.


Regional Solutions to Rapidly-evolving Crises

In the G5 Sahel, IDA19/IDA20 resources have reached almost 5 million beneficiaries through CERCs, CRW ERF and reallocation. In 2022, food vouchers covering four months of basic food needs supported 153,000 households (700,000 people) in Mali through the Mali Drylands Development Project. In Niger, 295,000 households received 9,000 tons of improved seeds and cassava cuttings through the Agriculture and Livestock Transformation and the Climate-Smart Agriculture Support Projects, and 73,500 people, including 32,500 women, were provided with temporary jobs. In Burkina Faso, cash transfers supported 500,000 food insecure people during the lean season.

In the Horn of Africa in 2020, the Bank funded the regional Emergency Locust Response Program (ELRP) in response to the biggest locust upsurge in 30 years, which destroyed crops and grazing land in many parts of the region, significantly affecting incomes and food security. The ELRP takes a multiphase Programmatic Approach, to support Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in increasing control and surveillance of new pest outbreaks, restoring livelihoods for vulnerable households and affected communities, and creating a framework for response to such outbreaks in the future. ELRP contributed significantly to swarm surveillance by financing operations on over 10 million hectares of land. It financed ground and aerial locust control on over 530,000 hectares across Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya alone.

In Kenya1.5 million farmers, more than 55 percent of them women, are being provided with input, extension services, digital climate advisory services and market access through the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project and the National Agriculture Rural Inclusive Growth Project to boost their productivity and enhance their food security, climate resilience and access to markets. More than 500,000 of the most vulnerable households in Somalia have been reached with cash transfers, water, livestock feeds, animal health, and farm inputs under the Shock Responsive Safety Net for Locust Response Project, the Urban Resilience Project and the Water for Agro-pastoral Productivity and Resilience Project. In Uganda, the Agriculture Cluster Development Project’s e-voucher scheme has enabled over 450,000 farm households to access and use improved agro-inputs resulting in higher farm yields and enhanced food security.

In Ethiopia, the ongoing Lowlands Livelihood Resilience Project is improving the resilience of the livelihoods of pastoral and agro-pastoral communities, and has provided support to 1.45 million people, provided over 500,000 pastoralists and agro-pastoral farmers with agricultural services and assets, has covered close to 300,000 hectares with sustainable land management practices, and has played a critical role in responding to the severe drought that affected the country in 2022.

In response to the same crisis, Somalia provided emergency cash transfers through the country’s national safety net program to over 250,000 households, while South Sudan distributed vegetable kits and tools to vulnerable households to benefit 11,050 households with farm inputs for dry season vegetable production, and distributed cash transfers to about 20,000 households.  A labor-intensive Public Works program is under implementation, with 166 sub-projects, ranging from tree nursery establishment, pods collections, clearance of access roads, to land reclamation, soil and water management, and constructions of dikes benefiting 30,786 households and 12,000 ha of affected crop production land area restored to productivity.  The desert locust upsurge was declared over as of March 2022.

Supporting the Poorest Households in Somalia



Somalia Baxnaano Program direct beneficiary woman with her three children. Photo: Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA). Across the sub-region, social protection programs have been essential in enabling households to cope with high food prices and localized shortages. The poorest households are the most vulnerable since they spend the largest share of their income on food.

Since its launch in 2019, the Baxnaano initiative has provided a platform for the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to play a new and continuing role in social safety net provision to households facing chronic poverty and the aggravating impacts of multiple climate-related shocks. More than 1 million people (about 9 percent of the population) have received nutrition-linked unconditional cash transfers to meet basic consumption needs.

“The Baxnaano Program came to us at a right moment,” says Ms. Nishey Mohamed Kheyre, a mother of eight, living in the Bakool region. “Our livelihood was mainly dependent on farming, but we have been impacted in recent years by bad harvests and locust infestation. We have been getting assistance for some time now, and the money was used to purchase food, clothing, and pay school fees for my children. I was even able to buy some chickens for our household and sell the eggs for income.”

In the Horn of Africa (HOA), a medium-term program with an estimated cost of $16 billion is improving food and nutrition security by enhancing regional infrastructure networks and trade and economic integration. Economic corridors, identified as a key area for support, account for 57 percent of the program, with coordinated corridor projects in different countries. For example, the $750 million HOA Gateway Development Project aims to benefit 3.2 million people in Northeast Kenya. In Ethiopia, which ranks third globally in its severely food-insecure population, the Bank provided for 8 million food-insecure people annually through the Ethiopia Strengthening Adaptive Safety Net Project (SEASN) in food and cash assistance. Up to $897 million in financing has been provided in the country’s portfolio to address food insecurity, and a reallocation of $121 million for immediate response to a recent drought in the South and East is assisting 7 million people affected through short-term food and cash.



Collaborating for Impact on the Ground

The World Bank is working with a diverse range of partners along the humanitarian-development-peace nexus to bring together complementary strengths to enhance food and nutrition security crisis response and preparedness at the global, regional, and country level. The World Bank is co-lead of the Global Alliance on Food Security (GAFS), which brings together over 60 multilateral and bilateral partners – including governments, UN agencies, international organizations, and civil society organizations to help improve coordination of policy and financial response to the crisis and advance resilience-building.

In Africa the Bank is working directly with continental, regional and sub-regional organizations, such as the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), and the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF). The FSRPs, for example, directly strengthen the capacity of these existing African organizations. Another program focusing on enhancing the capacity of African institutions is the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA), a program aiming to scale up agriculture science and innovation for a climate-resilient future in Africa.

At the country level, the Bank is developing Food Security Crisis Preparedness Plans (FSCPPs) together with key partners on the ground, including WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in countries receiving support through the CRW ERF. It is also working in 17 countries in partnership with FAO, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Meridian Institute, Just Rural Transition, and others to support transformational changes in agricultural policies towards achievement of resilient agri-food systems.

It also partners with key actors around the humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding nexus in IDA FCS, as conflict and crisis can also be drivers of food insecurity. On nutrition, the World Bank’s institutions are founding partners of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement,  with strong ties to bilateral partners, civil society, foundations, and United Nations agencies.


A Pipeline of Support for Food Security

The 2023 Roadmap for evolving the World Bank’s mission, operations, and resources emphasizes the impact of climate change on labor productivity, agricultural yields, water availability, natural disaster risks, and migration, particularly for poorer countries. These factors are already exacerbating the food security challenge in client countries. Food and Nutrition Security has been identified as one of eight global challenges for the World Bank to focus on. To meet this challenge, and to help break the cycle of food and nutrition insecurity by 2030, the World Bank is launching a Global Challenge Program on Food and Nutrition Security, focusing on (i) strengthening food stability, availability, utilization, and access; and (ii) establishing and enhancing crisis preparedness, early warning, and early action systems at country, regional, and global levels. Among other goals, the World Bank will increasingly work to improve sustainable food and nutrition security impacts of countries’ public spending and to mobilize more private investment in sustainable and resilient food systems.

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