Food? For thee but not for me.

The World Food Program (WFP) is a branch of the United Nations. It ostensibly exists to distribute food to those in need to address hunger and food security. Their mandate would suggest that they would be compelled by the UN and the world community to distribute food in a non-discriminatory way – but this is not so. The WFP routinely discriminates in the manner in which it distributes food. The WFP is so proud of this that they announce it on their website. Even many MRAs may be shocked to discover that the WFP only distributes food to women:

“It is our methodology to distribute only to women to ensure that food gets to women and children in Haiti,” she said. “Every time we have not had adequate security escorts, we have had riots at food sites.”

The news article headline on the WFP website (now deleted) proudly announces that they prioritize food distribution to women, but the text of the article makes it clear that only women will have food distributed to them. The kindest possible interpretation of the headline is that staff at the WFP don’t understand the meaning of the world ‘prioritize’ since this is clearly not consistent with the text of the news article.

The expectation is that these women would then distribute the food to their entire family – even the men and boys. There are unfortunately several issues with this approach.

Distributing food only to women would seem to leave families without women (such as those that had lost female family members during natural disasters) out in the cold, and hungry. The WFP has previously claimed that special provision is made for families that do not include women. It seems difficult to believe that in the chaotic environment that the WFP would generally need to operate in (following natural disasters for example) that their staff would have the resources to safely investigate the claims of men that they have no women in their family.

We can see similar policies from the American Red Cross. Advocates for the LGBT community have specifically raised this as a risk that gay men face following disasters:

However, these men still needed a woman in order to actually benefit from distribution, because the Red Cross policy only allowed women to stand in line and present the ration cards for aid.

This is not theoretical as various organizations advocating for the LGBT community have provided case studies in which families consisting only of men and boys were excluded from food distribution in Haiti following the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and went hungry as a result.

Distributing food only to women opens up the possibility that hungry men, denied food because of their gender alone, may simply take food from women after they leave the distribution centers. This is called robbery and the policies of the WFP, and the American Red Cross are encouraging it. This policy would, in fact, seem to increase the chances of violence against women.

The United Nations itself has explicit prohibitions regarding discrimination against women but apparently refuses to take any action when it comes to discrimination against men. We can see this policy applied through UN and non-UN agencies alike.

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