Fact Sheet: The World Bank Group’s Response to the Famine Crisis


More than 20 million people in North-East Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen are facing famine or the risk of famine over the coming six months, according to the United Nations. Deteriorating conditions in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia are also of concern.

An estimated 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition.  For others, especially children, famine can have lasting impacts—including on health, ability to learn, and to earn a living, which can hinder development progress.

Resolving this crisis will require close collaboration across humanitarian-development-peace partners, such as governments of the affected countries, UN agencies, and CSOs.


What is the WBG doing?

On March 8, 2017, President Jim Yong Kim announced that the World Bank Group is mobilizing an immediate response to the devastating food insecurity for Ethiopia, Kenya, North-East Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen.

The WBG is implementing a US$ 1.8 billion famine response package consisting of 17 projects to build social protection systems, strengthen community resilience, and maintain service delivery to the most vulnerable. More than US$ 870 million from existing projects will be redirected to help communities threatened by famine. About US$ 930 million will be used for emergency food security projects, safety-net programs, and agriculture and water programs in South Sudan, Yemen, North-East Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya. Total disbursement as of August 2017 is $632 million.

The International Development Association (IDA), the Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, is currently funding four emergency and crisis response projects in Yemen through grants totaling US$ 983 million.  This includes a US$ 200 million food security project that finances cash transfers for the poorest and most vulnerable Yemenis to enable them to purchase food and a US$ 300 million project that provides income opportunities and livelihood support. A US$ 233 million health project is helping to restore access to primary health care services and nutrition, while a US$ 250 million cholera response project is funding treatment along with measures to prevent future outbreaks, such as vaccines and the rehabilitation of water and sewage systems. 

Stronger collaboration across humanitarian, development, peace, and security partners is critical for delivery in challenging environments, and has been critical in the Bank’s response to famine. We will continue to support communities to help them reclaim their livelihoods, regain cohesion and build resilience to future shocks. With protracted and recurrent crises as the new norm, we must do more to ensure that we have in place the information, systems and processes to help countries cope, and to find new solutions via non-state actors, including the private sector.


What is the Progress on the Ground?

In Ethiopia:

  • The Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) is one of the world’s largest safety net programs. It provides regular cash or food transfers to 8 million people who live in drought-affected areas. Its cash/food-for-work component supports public works projects, chosen by members of the communities affected, and is usually related to landscape restoration (soil and water conservation); small scale irrigation; construction of social infrastructures, such as health posts and school classrooms; construction of rural access roads; and agro-forestry.
  • When asked, most beneficiaries prefer PSNP over emergency humanitarian aid, their main reason being that it is dependable, predictable, and regular.
  • Run by the government, it pools money from 11 donors as well as the Government of Ethiopia, including US$ 600 million of World Bank Group IDA funds. However, the PSNP falls short of funds to scale up safety net transfers during droughts as severe as the current one. In response, the World Bank recently approved another US$ 100 million to the PSNP, on top of the extra US$ 100 million allocated to the program last year to support the Government of Ethiopia’s responses to the droughts. Furthermore, the World Bank Group approved a new project, the Rural Productive Safety Net Project (RPSNP), on September 14, 2017, to provide additional financial support to the PSNP. The RPSNP continues to support activities similar to those under PSNP 4 but with a new initiative to bring together the two rural safety net interventions – namely, the PSNP and Humanitarian Food Assistance (HFA) – into a common framework that uses the PSNP systems and procedures in rural areas.

In North-East Nigeria:

  • Additional financing for five projects have been approved with the objective to provide vital support in the six states that have been ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency and are facing dire effects of the famine.
    • In the social protection sector, a second additional credit of US$ 75 million to the Community and Social Development Project AF-2 provides immediate basic social infrastructure, as well as psychosocial support to communities most affected by displacement. In addition, through the proposed additional credit of US $100 million for the Nigeria Youth Employment and Social Support AF, cash transfers will also be provided to displaced families and individuals as they return voluntarily and safely to settle in their old or new communities.
    • In the agricultural sector, a second additional credit of US$ 50 million to the Third National FADAMA Development Project (FADAMA III) addresses the emergency needs of farmers by improving access to irrigation and drainage services, delivery of agricultural inputs, and contributing to the restoration of livelihoods in conflict-affected households.
    • In the education sector, additional financing of US$ 100 million to the State Education Program Investment Project AF will support the return to teaching and learning through financial incentives for teachers who have completed psychosocial training and provide grants to schools to address their needs as identified by school-based management committees.
    • In the health sector, the proposed additional financing of US$ 125 million dollars to the Nigeria State Health Investment Project (NSHIP) AF will help to immediately re-establish health services with a focus on maternal, newborn and child health, nutrition, psychosocial support and mental health. In communities in which health facilities have been destroyed, mobile clinics will be deployed to provide care.
  • As part of a larger multi-partner solution to crisis recovery in the north-east states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the Multi-Sectoral Crisis Recovery Project (MCRP) is a US$ 200 million credit that includes service delivery restoration and infrastructure rehabilitation in the health, education, transport, water, and sanitation sectors. Up to US$ 5 million of the approved funds will help farming families combat the food security crisis in the region.
  • All projects and interventions will have a special focus on women and youth. 
  • The Second Additional financing of the Polio Eradication Support Project seeks to prevent any disruption in routine immunization and complete polio eradication.

In Somalia:

  • Though it was affected by its worst drought in decades, large-scale famine in Somalia has been prevented in 2017. People in need of humanitarian assistance has fallen from 6.7 million to 6.2 million. However, displacements due to the drought total 875,000.
  • On May 30, 2017, the World Bank approved a US$ 50 million emergency project – the Somalia Emergency Drought Response and Recovery Project (SEDRP) – to scale up the drought response and recovery effort in Somalia. To deliver the project, the Bank is supporting the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a United Nations agency.
  • The Project will address the immediate needs of communities affected by the drought and support early recovery and improved resilience to future shocks. This will be achieved through a surge of high-impact, rapid interventions, including the provision of food, water, cash, health services, and essential household items, as well as through the reconstitution of productive assets, production capacity, and livelihoods, including livestock and farming assets.
  • The new partnership with the ICRC will ensure rapid and effective assistance is provided to those most in need, including in some of the most difficult-to-reach parts of the country. The ICRC has been on the ground in Somalia since the 1980s, providing emergency response and resilience-building support through its national partner, the Somali Red Crescent. The funding will enable ICRC to rapidly deliver food, water, cash, and essential household items to about half a million people, many of whom are in areas that are not accessible by other international humanitarian partners.
  • To improve rural livelihoods over the longer-term, the Project supports the FAO’s work to restock livestock herds, support farmers, and generate income and community-based resilience through cash-for work.

In South Sudan:

  • Despite extremely challenging circumstances, the World Bank is partnering with UN agencies like the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and FAO to provide support through a US$ 50 million Emergency Food and Nutrition Security Project. The project, approved on May 4, will focus on providing food and nutrition support for the protection of lives and human capital and to lay the foundations for the recovery of crops and livestock for 580,000 people.
  • The support is from the IDA Crisis Response Window All project funds will flow directly to the UN agencies. Right now, no additional money has been earmarked for roads.

In Yemen:

  • The US$ 500 million in cash transfers and income support projects are being implemented in partnership with the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and have so far:
    • Provided cash transfers to 650,000 households, or 3.4 million vulnerable Yemenis, so they can purchase food;
    • Provided 423,000 with income and livelihood support; and
    • Directed wage employment to 60,750 people.
  • The World Bank, together with UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), is implementing the emergency health and nutrition project that has so far:
    • Vaccinated over 5 million children against polio;
    • Provided 6.5 million Yemenis with primary health care services and nutrition, including micronutrients for half a million children, as well as pregnant and lactating women;
    • Screened 88,000 children for malnutrition;
    • Trained 3,200 health workers; and
    • Provided 4,500 health personnel with per diems and travel allowances so they can reach remote areas.
  • The US$ 250 million cholera response project has achieved the following:
    • The establishment of 84 cholera treatment and 500 oral rehydration centers
    • Cleaning of 15 water sources through chlorination
    • Sanitation services benefiting more than 3 million people
    • The launch of a nation-wide citizen outreach and social mobilization campaign
    • The successful treatment of 350,000 cases, slowing down the number of new cases and bringing down the cholera case fatality rate from 2.3 per cent to 0.4 per cent
  • Beyond these immediate life-saving measures, a new US$ 150 million project to restore basic services in Yemen’s conflict-affected cities was recently announced, bringing total IDA support close to US$ 1 billion, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), our private sector arm, is mobilizing a US$ 100 million trade financing facility so the private sector can supply essential food imports.
  • In addition, the World Bank is working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to promote food security by helping smallholder farmers restart production in the hardest hit areas of the country, with a US$ 36 million project funded by the Global Agriculture Food Security Program.


Key resources

Press releases and statements:

For more information, contact Nicole Frost,


Last Updated: Nov 28, 2017