Ukraine is the largest country to be located entirely in Europe. Arable land covers more than half of its area. Much of it is humus-rich, high-yielding “black earth”. Despite this natural advantage, the agricultural sector shrank drastically in the early post-Soviet era as the collective farming system collapsed. GDP growth in the new millennium partly offset this decline, but came to a sharp end as the world economy entered crisis in the late 2000s.
Ukraine is now a lower middle income country, ranked 81st out of 188 in the 2015 Human Development Index. Its population has been declining at a rapid rate to an estimated 45.2 million in 2015 – a loss of more than 6 million people since independence in 1991.
In April 2014, Russian annexation of Crimea led to open fighting between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian groups in the east of the country. The conflict has killed more than 9,000 people and caused renewed hardship and deprivation. The country has lost territory; cities and towns have been devastated; more than two million people have been forced from their homes and exposed to harsh winter conditions.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians in conflict or former conflict areas have limited access to basic sustenance and services. Government support to public services has stopped in some areas; this includes funding to schools and hospitals, as well as the payment of social benefits and pensions.
Many of the displaced have lost their jobs, and their financial resources are thought to be exhausted. Food inflation is among the highest in the world. The significant devaluation of national currency (estimated at as much as 50 percent) has seen consumer prices growing at a faster pace than families' incomes, limiting their purchasing power and general access to food. 620,000 people in eastern Ukraine are estimated to be food insecure, and additional 500,000 have little or no livelihood.
For the first time in decades, food insecurity has returned to a part of Europe better known as a regional “breadbasket”, making Ukraine the only European country to require and receive assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP).
What the World Food Programme is doing in Ukraine
WFP provides food rations in conflict-affected areas where humanitarian organizations have limited access and where infrastructure and markets are disrupted. The WFP food basket includes pasta, beans, sugar, salt, buckwheat, canned fish and vegetable oil, equivalent to 1,600 kcal per person daily. Between November 2014 and December 2016, around 600,000 people have received WFP food rations.
In areas under government control and where local markets are functional, WFP provides internally displaced people with vouchers they can spend on a specific list of food items. This helps people meet their food needs and injects money into local economies. From November 2014 to December 2016, WFP has supported around 246,000 people with food vouchers.
Food for assets/training
In January 2017 WFP started to implement small-scale early recovery activities, primarily during the spring and summer (June – September). Livelihood activities, implemented through Food for Assets and Food for Training programmes, aim to increase income and rehabilitate productive assets tailored to the local context. WFP plans to involve 150,000 people identified as moderately food insecure in these programmes.