The World Food Programme (WFP)’s efforts to tackle hunger and ensure food security for millions of people in the world have been recognised with the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.
On Friday October 9, in Oslo, Norway, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020 to the WFP for its efforts to combat hunger and contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.
The World Food Programme is the food-assistance agency of the United Nations and it is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation addressing hunger and promoting food security.
In 2019, the WFP provided assistance to close to 100 million people in 88 countries who are victims of acute food insecurity and hunger. In 2015, eradicating hunger was adopted as one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The WFP is the UN’s primary instrument for realising this goal. In recent years, the situation has taken a negative turn. In 2019, 135 million people suffered from acute hunger, the highest number in many years. Most of the increase was caused by war and armed conflict.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to emphasise that providing assistance to increase food security not only prevents hunger, but can also help to improve prospects for stability and peace. The World Food Programme has taken the lead in combining humanitarian work with peace efforts through pioneering projects in South America, Africa and Asia, said Berit Reiss-Andersen, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, during the announcement of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize to WFP.
Reiss-Andersen said that the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world.
She pointed out that in countries such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the combination of violent conflict and the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation.
“In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts. As the organisation itself has stated, “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos,” she said.
She indicated that the world is in danger of experiencing a hunger crisis of inconceivable proportions if the World Food Programme and other food assistance organisations do not receive the financial support they have requested.
Link between hunger and conflicts
Reiss-Andersen suggested that “the link between hunger and armed conflict is a vicious circle: war and conflict can cause food insecurity and hunger, just as hunger and food insecurity can cause latent conflicts to flare up and trigger the use of violence.”
With this year’s award, she said, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to turn the eyes of the world towards the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger.
“The organisation contributes daily to advancing the fraternity of nations referred to in Alfred Nobel’s will. As the UN’s largest specialised agency, the World Food Programme is a modern version of the peace congresses that the Nobel Peace Prize is intended to promote,” Reiss-Andersen observed.
WFP provides various nutrition interventions including food assistance to the school feeding programme to improve learning conditions in the world.
In 2019, 17.3 million schoolchildren received nutritious meals and snacks from WFP in 59 countries. Working with governments to build capacity, WFP helped bolster the national school feeding programmes of 65 countries, benefitting a further 39 million children, show figures from WFP.
Globally, nearly 821 million people are hungry, of whom 31 per cent are from specifically sub-Saharan Africa, show the 2019 State of Food Security and Nutrition by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The report shows that food crises are caused primarily by conflict and climate change shocks.