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.
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Operating as well by helicopter as on the back of an 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”, reacted the WFP, whose general manager, the American David Beasley said he was “very honored” by a “tremendous recognition”.
“I am speechless for the first time in my life,” he said in a video.
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.
A dizzying figure, but which represents only a fraction of the total need. Despite the progress made over the past three decades, the UN target of eradicating hunger by 2030 seems out of reach if current trends continue, experts say.
“In the Central African Republic, we are working in a very difficult context”, rejoiced a manager of one of the local branches of the program, Vigno Hounkanli, joined in Bangui. “The teams go to remote areas, sometimes at the risk of their lives, and I think of our colleagues who gave up their lives trying to save others”.
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.
“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, making food more expensive 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 towards hunger between 83 and 132 million more people, estimated the UN in a report published in mid-July.
“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 at the edge of the family”, underlined Ms Reiss-Andersen.
“The World Food Program would have been a worthy winner of the award without the pandemic, but the pandemic and its consequences absolutely reinforce the reasons for this award”, she added before an audience reduced to less than ten journalists, COVID-19 obliges.
Faced with the temptations of nationalist retreat, the president of the Nobel committee, who arrived on crutches because of a broken leg, also stressed the importance of finding “multilateral solutions to combat global challenges”.
“Multilateralism seems to suffer from a lack of respect at the moment,” she lamented.
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 1.5 million dollars) – will be presented at a ceremony in a significantly reduced format. on December 10 in Oslo or, if not, remotely via digital means.