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The World Food Programme really wants you to like its Facebook page

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the largest humanitarian organization in the world. It manages to feed 100 million people in 80 countries every year.

The folks at WFP need a lot of money and support to do their life-saving work. Social media like Facebook has been touted as a tool to get just that – money and support.

As we noted a while ago, UNICEF Sweden crafted a clever campaign on Facebook that urged supporters to skip the ‘like’ button and just make a donation. The WFP is also using Facebook to raise awareness and money – but with a twist to UNICEF Sweden’s approach:

“You will NOT feed this hungry child by liking the World Food Programme on Facebook,” reads the latest campaign.

“…but our partner Royan DSM will.”

Social media has its limits, explained WFP Social Media Editor Justin Smith to Humanosphere. The problem is that many campaigns were designed without taking the limitations of social media into account.

“The euphoria about social media’s potential to solve the world’s problems has faded,” said Smith. “That’s probably a good thing, because it wasn’t realistic. But it’s given way to a scepticism about whether online activism can achieve anything meaningful at all.”

The donation from Royal DSM, a science and health company that works on nutrition, is an important part of the new campaign, but the heart of the effort is to raise awareness and grow support for the global hunger problem. No matter how well the campaign does, Royal DSM committed to provide at least 40,000 meals through WFP. Donations will continue if the campaign works and people like the WFP Facebook page.

WFP believes that getting people to like it on Facebook provides a point of access for their work. Staff and partners with WFP are on the frontlines of crises around the world. Smith says that the Facebook page is a place where stories and pictures are shared. The people who like the WFP Facebook page will see these updates on their timelines creating another point of interaction between an individual and WFP.

World Food Programme
WFP’s new Facebook campaign with Royal DSM

The campaign comes at a time when global food security could worsen in some countries over the next decade.  An estimated 870 million people do not have enough food to eat, says WFP. That number was 1 billion people in 1990, but progress has slowed down since 2008. Poor nutrition claims the lives of 3.1 million children each year, nearly half of all deaths for children under five years old.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) believes that the number of food insecure people will increase by 23% over the over the next ten years, faster than the projected 16% population growth over the same period. A new report from USAID says that sub-Saharan nations that already face food challenges will remain the same and in the case of Malawi, Uganda and Chad, get worse.

“The big threats over the coming decade are the ones we already face: conflict first and foremost, a variety of natural disasters, and major macroeconomic disruptions,” says Christopher Barrett, a reseacher at Cornell University to IRIN. “The climate scientists don’t talk seriously of change over the course of a decade.”

The causes of hunger are multifaceted, but the solutions are known, says Smith. The need for more resources and a stronger effort are what drive the campaign.

“Solving hunger for 870 million people worldwide requires public support on a global scale. Business, NGOs, governments and the individuals they represent all have to be on board,” said Smith.

A Like button says “I support this, this is important to me”.”

Royal DSM is a long time partner with WFP. An agreement earlier this year between Royal DSM and WFP announced a commitment to increase the number of people reached through the partnership from 15 million today to 25-30 million in 2015. Target countries include Nepal, Kenya, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

“As the world’s largest producer of vitamins and other micronutrients we have a clear responsibility to help solve the globe’s most solvable problem: hidden hunger,” says Feike Sijbesma, CEO and Chairman of the DSM Managing Board.

LikeThe most popular pages on Facebook are for celebrities and soft drinks. The millions of people that connect with these brands present a powerful point of engagement. It drives Smith and WFP to ask, “What will it take to get millions of users on Facebook to show the same interest in world hunger?”

Instead of selling a product that tastes good or a song that is enjoyable, WFP sees the problem of hunger as what it needs to sell to the public.  They are working with media companies to place PSA’s and advertisements for the new campaign in print and video. Partners are working on a pro bono basis in support of the WFP to reach more people and raise awareness about global hunger and give people the opportunity to get meals to people who need them.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]