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World Food Programme wins Nobel Peace Prize

  • Pierre-Henry Deshayes

    Agence France-Presse

Oslo, Norway   /   Fri, October 9, 2020   /   05:42 pm
World Food Programme wins Nobel Peace Prize Food rations provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) are pictured in the foreground as Muslims seeking shelter at a monastery listen to a speech by Religious Affairs Minister San Sint at Lashio township May 31, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo (Reuters/Zeya Tun)

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the World Food Programme on Friday for feeding millions of people from Yemen to North Korea, with the coronavirus pandemic pushing millions more into hunger.

The WFP was "a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict", Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said on unveiling the winner in Oslo.

"This is a powerful reminder to the world that peace and #ZeroHunger go hand-in-hand," the Rome-based organization said on Twitter.

Founded in 1961, the UN body helped 97 million people last year, distributing 15 billion rations to people in 88 countries last year.

Whether delivering food by helicopter or on the back of an elephant or a camel, the WFP prides itself on being "the leading humanitarian organization" in a world where, by its own estimates, some 690 million people - one in 11 - go to bed on an empty stomach.

"With this year's award, 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," Reiss-Andersen said.

"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.

"We will never achieve the goal of zero hunger unless we also put an end to war and armed conflict."

WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri described the win as "humbling" and a "proud moment".

Despite making progress over the past three decades, the UN's goal to eradicate hunger by 2030 appears out of reach if current trends continue, according to experts.

Women and children are generally most at risk.

War can be caused by hunger, but hunger is also a consequence of war, with people living in areas of conflict three times more likely to be undernourished than those living in countries at peace, the WFP says.

"There's no two ways about it - we can't end hunger unless we put an end to conflict," WFP executive director David Beasley said in September.

Yemen, which is living through what the UN has described as the "largest humanitarian crisis in the world", is a stark example.

Both the UN and aid agencies have repeatedly raised the alarm over the disastrous consequences of the conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives, displaced three million and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Two-thirds of Yemen's 30 million people do not know where their next meal will come from, WFP figures show.

The outlook for the world has grown bleaker this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to earnings losses, made food more expensive and disrupted supply chains.

"The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world," the Nobel committee said.

"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 April, Beasley raised the alarm, saying: "We could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months." 

The global recession caused by the virus risks pushing an additional 83 to 132 million people into hunger, the UN said in a report in mid-July.

The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on Dec.10 in Oslo has been scaled back because of virus restrictions.

This is the 12th time the Peace Prize has gone to the UN, one of its agencies or personalities - more than any other laureate.

The award consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a checque for 10 million Swedish kronor