The World Food Program (WFP) was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, October 9. This United Nations agency has been operating for nearly six decades in areas plagued by natural disasters or armed conflicts to provide emergency aid to populations without resources. Five things to know about this powerful organization.
Almost sixty years of existence
WFP was created in 1962 at the behest of US President Dwight Eisenhower, officially to endow the recent United Nations World Organization with a food arm. In reality, “PAM was born from the desire of the American government to support its national agriculture by buying back agricultural surpluses in the United States and distributing them in developing countries”, a PAM official told Agence France-Presse (AFP), on condition of anonymity.
The program is only a few months old when an earthquake hits northern Iran, killing more than 12,000. In 1963, WFP’s first school feeding project was launched, and in 1965 the agency was fully integrated into the United Nations.
WFP, which employs 17,000 people, is funded entirely by donations, most of which come from states. He raised $ 8 billion in 2019.
The action in Yemen, the biggest operation ever
Around the world, no less than 1.1 million women and children under 5 receive nutritional support from WFP every month. He currently works in Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Boko Haram-stricken states, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and South Sudan.
“The emergency response in Yemen is our biggest operation in the world”, writes the PAM on its site. Almost 10 million Yemenis “Are acutely food insecure.
WFP charters the equivalent of 5,600 trucks, 30 ships and nearly 100 planes a day, often through NGOs and private carriers. Locally, in inaccessible areas, the organization can also use donkeys.
WFP isn’t just about food
WFP has experienced in over sixty years a “Sophistication” increased means of action. While its original missions consisted, for the most part, in bringing food from point A to point B, WFP operates above all today on the basis of food, education and nutrition programs, distributing the funds collected for a optimal use, distributes vouchers or cash sums.
Its role in educating target populations about good nutrition is also essential. “Before we gave calories, now the emphasis is on special needs, pregnant or breastfeeding women for example. This requires local education. Malnourished children are both the lack of access to food but also prevention, with hand washing, etc. “, explains the UN official interviewed by AFP.
WFP focuses on emergency aid, as well as reconstruction and development assistance. Two-thirds of his work takes place in conflict zones. “The situations are always more complicated. There is often a confusion of roles between military and humanitarian, for example in the Sahel where NGOs are forced to operate with military escorts “, explains the UN official.
The organization works closely with two other UN agencies also based in Rome: FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Fears about a possible “hunger pandemic”
More than 821 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger, while 135 million others experience famine or critical deficiencies in their diets, to which an additional 130 million people could be added as a result of the pandemic.
The number of acutely food insecure people around the world has jumped by nearly 70% in the past four years, and the economic crisis resulting from the health crisis could cause a “Hunger pandemic”, WFP warns, especially in South America, southern, central and western Africa. “We urgently need additional support from donors, who of course are already under great strain due to the impact of the pandemic in their own countries”, explains the spokesperson for WFP in Geneva, Thomas Phiri.