Refugee Food Assistance

Girl at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya
Girl at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
Mwangi Kirubi for USAID

Refugees are people who have fled their country to escape war, violence or persecution. More than 25 million people around the world today are living as refugees—more than at any time since World War II. More than half of refugees are children under 18.

USAID, through the Office of Food for Peace (FFP), provides emergency food assistance to help refugees recover and regain stability – and to ease the burden on the communities that host them. Working with the UN World Food Program (WFP), we provided $680 million in food assistance to millions of refugees in fiscal year 2018.

Map of Food Assistance for Refugees in Fiscal Year 2018, Bangladesh more than $100.1M, Burkina Faso $1-5M, Burundi $5M-$20M, Cameroon $20.1M-$50M, Chad $50.1M-$100M, Colombia $5.1M-$20M, Djibouti $1-$5M, DRC $1-$5M, Ecuador $1-$5M, Ethiopia $20.1M-$50M, Kenya $20.1M-$50M, Malawi $1-$5M, Mauritania $1-$5M, Niger $5M-$20M, Rwanda $5.1M-$20M, Syria regional more than $100M, Tanzania $20.1M-$50M, Uganda $50.1M-$100M, Zimbabwe $5.1M-$20M

Refugees, Conflict and Instability

Refugees flee conflict and instability. About half of today’s refugees come from just three countries, all mired in conflict:  Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.  Natural disasters, such as persistent drought in  Somalia, also contribute to population movements and exacerbate humanitarian needs.

By far, most of the world’s refugees are hosted by countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Turkey hosts more than 3 million refugees; Pakistan and Uganda each hosts more than 1 million; and Bangladesh hosts nearly 1 million refugees from Burma.

USAID food assistance addresses immediate hunger and lays the foundation for longer-term nutritional solutions for refugees. Our food assistance reaches refugees in 28 countries, including Syrian refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey; South Sudanese refugees in Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia; and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, among others. 

How Does USAID Support Refugees?

Because different refugee populations face different environments and circumstances, our food assistance is tailored, using four modalities, to fit the needs of refugee populations:

  • In-kind commodities are grown in the U.S. and shipped abroad to refugees.

  • Locally and regionally procured (LRP) food is purchased nearby, then distributed to refugees. 

  • Food vouchers can be exchanged for a set quantity or value of goods.

  • Cash transfers allow refugees to purchase food in local markets.


REFUGEES IN ETHIOPIA:  In FY 2018, FFP worked with WFP to reach some 705,000 refugees in Ethiopia with emergency relief.  We provided $22 million in U.S.-grown food and $23 million in regionally grown food, including yellow split peas or lentils, vegetable oil and sorghum for refugees, and supplementary nutrition products for children under 2 and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

FOOD VOUCHERS FOR SYRIAN REFUGEES: With our partners, FFP provides food vouchers reaching 1 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey, enabling them to buy food in local markets. This in turn supports local economies and eases the pressure on host communities.

REFUGEES IN UGANDA:  USAID and WFP distributed emergency food assistance to 1.4 million refugees and asylum-seekers in northern and southwestern Uganda in FY18. We provided U.S.-grown food and locally and regionally grown food to ensure vulnerable families enough to eat, while incentivizing local food production and saving on shipping costs so we could reach more needy families.

Related Resources

Last updated: October 31, 2018

Share This Page