Humanitarian Food Assistance

Table of Contents:

Humanitarian Food Assistance

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Humanitarian Food Assistance


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Humanitarian aid

Humanitarian Food Assistance

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 31 March 2010 Humanitarian Food Assistance [COM(2010) 126 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


The Commission defines the strategic framework in which the European Union (EU) provides food assistance in the event of humanitarian crises outside its territory. This new strategy should allow the effectiveness of assistance and the joint work of all actors involved to be improved.

Humanitarian food assistance has the main aim of saving and preserving lives, protecting livelihoods and increasing resilience for populations facing ongoing or future food crises. The EU’s action also aims at meeting a series of specific objectives:

  • ensuring the availability, access to and consumption of adequate, safe and nutritious food;
  • protecting food production and marketing systems;
  • strengthening the international system to improve the effectiveness of assistance.

However, operations must not:

  • make populations dependent upon the relief system;
  • disrupt the functioning of commercial markets;
  • expose beneficiaries to risk in receiving assistance;
  • have too much impact on the environment and natural resources.

Initiation of assistance operations

The Commission can trigger a humanitarian food assistance response where:

  • emergency rates of mortality or acute malnutrition have been reached, or will be reached according to forecasts, due to lack of food;
  • there are serious threats to the lives of the population or risks of extreme suffering, due to a lack of livelihood or bad strategies for coping with the crisis (i.e. in particular the sale of productive assets, migration, or insecure survival practices, etc.).

Nevertheless, the Commission can intervene as soon as a crisis begins, without waiting for extreme risks for the population to occur or for a disaster to be officially declared.

It can also deal with situations of chronic food insecurity by associating humanitarian intervention with development actions. This is only possible if:

  • the situation presents an imminent humanitarian risk of significant severity;
  • other actors cannot act;
  • the action may have a positive impact in a short time.

Operations are gradually halted when indicators are stable below emergency levels. They are also halted when other donors or non-humanitarian stakeholders are able to meet the needs of the population for a sustained period.

Food and nutritional needs

Operations aim first of all at the timely supply of food. However, humanitarian food assistance may also intervene in several food-related sectors, such as agriculture and health.

Furthermore, populations should have access to safe and well balanced food, of sufficient quantity and quality. The type of food proposed should, if possible, conform to local dietary preferences.

Finally, populations should be made aware of nutrition and appropriate feeding practices.

Additional strategies

The Commission wishes to develop links between humanitarian assistance, the strategy for relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD) and the strategy for disaster risk reduction (DRR). This approach necessitates long-term support and effective coordination among those involved in humanitarian assistance and development.

The EU also promotes better collaboration between international actors and a reinforcement of global governance.


This strategic framework complies with the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid. It is presented in conjunction with the Communication on food security and development.

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