New Delhi: The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) was Friday awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, beating 318 other candidates, including Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and US President Donald Trump who was nominated for brokering a peace deal between Israel and the UAE.
According to a statement released by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, WFP was honoured “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its 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”.
Soon after the announcement, the organisation said it was “deeply humbled” to have received the prize and credited the achievement to its staff “who put their lives on the line every day to bring food and assistance to more than 100 million hungry children, women and men across the world”.
ThePrint takes a look at what the WFP is, its origins and efforts at combating hunger across the globe.
Providing food in conflict areas
The WFP became an official UN agency in 1965 with an aim to alleviate hunger and provide food security across the globe, especially in conflict areas where two-third of its work is concentrated.
By 2019, the organisation had assisted 97 million people in 88 countries. Today, it distributes more than 15 billion rations of food every year to various parts of the world.
The agency, which aims to achieve food security and improved nutrition by 2030, says one in nine people in the world still don’t have enough food to eat. Apart from alleviating hunger and poverty, the WFP also provides aid for development, emergency assistance, relief and rehabilitation in conflict areas.
The WFP has been present in India since 1963 and worked towards improving the government’s midday meal scheme. Bishow Parajuli, WFP’s India country director, had recently made some suggestions to tackle the scheme that has been hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He advised introducing fortified staples, keeping an eye on nutritional requirements and increasing the ration size of meals.
Brainchild of US President Eisenhower
During the UN general assembly of 1 September 1960, then US President Dwight D. Eisenhower had made a proposal for a “workable scheme” to provide food aid through the global body.
By April 1961, then Director of the US Food for Peace Programme George McGovern put the gears in motion by providing a fund of $100 million to start WFP on a three-year experimental basis.
In 1962, the WFP played a critical role in sending wheat, sugar and tea to northern Iran after it was hit by an earthquake. By 1963, the organisation established its first school meals project in West Africa’s Togo.
In 1989, the WFP was also part of the ‘Operation Lifeline Sudan’ that was launched by the UN when parts of South Sudan were affected by famine and other humanitarian crises due to an ongoing civil war. The WFP had airdropped 1.5 million tons of food.
“The dawn-to-dusk, 20-aircraft, three-sorties-a-day airdrop remains, to this day, the largest in history. It saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” states the WFP website.