The Nobel Peace Prize crowned the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) on Friday, which, from Yemen to North Korea, feeds tens of millions of mouths in a world where hunger, a formidable “weapon of war”, should further progress due to COVID-19.
Operating by helicopter, elephant or camel, WFP presents itself as “the largest humanitarian organization”. A necessity since, according to its estimates, 690 million people – one in 11 – suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2019. And probably more this year because of the pandemic.
He is recognized for “his efforts to fight hunger, for his contribution to improving the conditions of peace in areas affected by conflict and for having played a leading role in efforts to prevent the use of hunger. as a weapon of war, ”said Nobel committee chairperson Berit Reiss-Andersen.
“Peace and the eradication of hunger are inseparable,” responded WFP. In a video, its managing director, American David Beasley, said to himself “speechless for the first time in [sa] life “.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “delighted” with the award “to first responders to the food insecurity front”. “The women and men of WFP brave dangers and distances to deliver vital food to those suffering from conflict, to people affected by disasters, to children and to families who do not know what their next meal will be like”, he argued.
Founded in 1961 with its headquarters in Rome and funded entirely by voluntary contributions, the UN program says it distributed 15 billion rations and assisted 97 million people in 88 countries last year – staggering numbers, but they only represent a fraction of the total need. Despite the progress made over the past three decades, the UN target of eradicating hunger by 2030 appears unattainable if current trends continue, experts say.
Since war can be both the cause and the consequence of hunger, people living in countries affected by conflict are significantly more likely to be undernourished, according to WFP.
Last year, the program was shaken by a report, based on testimonies from numerous staff, of numerous cases of abuse of authority, harassment, including sexual harassment, and discrimination.
“Food is the best vaccine”
The horizon for the planet has darkened further this year with the health and economic shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing cascading income losses, increasing food prices and disrupting supply chains.
“We could be faced with multiple famines of Biblical proportions in a few months,” warned David Beasley in April. “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos,” he also said in June.
The global recession caused by the virus is likely to push an additional 83 million to 132 million people into hunger, the UN estimated this summer.
“In countries like Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the violence of conflicts combined with the pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in the number of people on the brink of famine”, underlined Ms. Reiss-Andersen before an audience reduced to a dozen journalists, COVID-19 requires.
Advocacy for international cooperation
Faced with the temptations of nationalist retreat, the president of the Nobel Committee also stressed the importance of finding “multilateral solutions to combat global challenges”.
“UN agencies and other international institutions seem to receive less support these days,” she told AFP, citing Brexit and some US critics. “Generally speaking, in small nations and larger nations there seems to be a populist tendency,” she explained.
This is the 12th time that the Peace Prize has recognized the United Nations, one of its agencies or a person related to it – more than any other winner.
The virus will upset the conditions under which the WFP will pocket its Nobel. If the health situation permits, the prize – a diploma, a gold medal and a check for 10 million crowns (nearly 950,000 euros) – will be awarded at a significantly reduced ceremony on December 10 in Oslo. or, in the opposite case, remotely via digital means.