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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts in combating world hunger. Chair of the Norweigian Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen stated that the prize was awarded to WFP 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”. This is the 11th time the United Nations (including its specialised agencies, programmes and staff etc.) has been awarded the prize. 

Established in 1961 at the request of US President Dwight Eisenhower, the programme was initially a pilot project to provide food aid through the UN system subject to a reassessment in three years. It was continued due to its resounding success. The WFP focuses on emergency assistance, relief and rehabilitation, development aid and special operations. Two thirds of the countries assisted through the world food programme are conflict affected nations where people are thrice as likely to be malnourished. The WFP also works to rebuild and strengthen communities. The programme’s focus on nutrition begins at the earliest stages of a child’s life, from the first 1000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday, and then through school feeding programmes. 17.3 million children in 50 countries benefited in 2019. Today WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency. 97 million people in 88 countries were assisted in 2019 through the programme. 5600 trucks, 30 ships and nearly 100 planes provide food and other assistance on any given day through the programme, often to people in the world’s most remote locations. The UN Humanitarian Air Service (which is managed by WFP) flies to over 280 locations globally and offers passenger and light cargo transport to the entire humanitarian community, often in places and conditions where other means of transport cannot be found due to issues ranging from natural disasters to conflict. 

The Norweigian Nobel Commitee recognized WFP for its work during the current COVID-19 pandemic. “In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to to intensify its efforts. As the organisation itself has stated, “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos”,” said Chair of the Norweigian Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen at the announcement of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. She pointed out that war and hunger and interconnected and placed emphasis on the fact that assistance provided to increase food security not only reduces hunger but also improves prospects of stability and peace. 

Executive Director of the World Food Programme David Beasley said in an official statement that the award was a humbling and moving recognition of the work of WFP staff. Driven by the programme’s core values of integrity, humanity and inclusion, they lay their lives on the line every day to bring food and assistance for close to 100 million hungry children, women and men across the world, he said. He added that the award drew attention to the devastating consequences of conflict and added that several issues have compounded such consequences. He also said that one of those issues, the recent COVID-19 pandemic is pushing millions more people the brink of starvation. The Director also pointed out that award was not WFP’s alone and that the programme benefits immensely from the assistance of the governments, organizations and private sector partners they work with. “Where there is conflict, there is hunger. And where there is hunger, there is often conflict. Today is a reminder that food security, peace and stability go together. Without peace, we cannot achieve our global goal of zero hunger; and while there is hunger, we will never have a peaceful world,” he said. 

Given below is an excerpt of the statement made by WFP Sri Lanka 

Country Director WFP Sri Lanka Brenda Barton hands over a take-home ration pack to a student in Kalapaluwawa.  

"The COVID-19 crisis has added to global food insecurity with an increasing number of people going hungry. The pandemic, with its brutal impact on economies and communities, is pushing millions of people worldwide to the brink of starvation. 

Globally and in Sri Lanka, WFP focuses on emergency assistance, relief and rehabilitation, development aid and special operations. In Sri Lanka, WFP has worked with the government and other partners to save lives and livelihoods and make profound changes to ensure people have better access to food and nutrition. 

For more than half a century, WFP staff have dedicated themselves to helping communities in Sri Lanka, from assisting during the tsunami and post conflict period, to providing nourishing school meals to children,” says Brenda Barton, WFP Country Director in Sri Lanka. “We are profoundly honoured that WFP has received this award, which is in recognition of WFP staff worldwide including those in Sri Lanka, who work tirelessly to develop a better future for vulnerable communities everywhere."

The video of the announcement of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize can be accessed through the link below. 

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