World Food Programme honored with Nobel Peace Prize 2020
The Vatican, and Pope Francis in particular, have been big supporters of the United Nations agency
The World Food Programme (WFP), a Rome-based United Nations agency that Pope Francis has on many occasions praised, won the Nobel Peace Prize 2020 for its efforts to combat hunger, food insecurity and improve conditions for peace in conflict areas.
The WFP this year also fed millions by helping in alleviating challenges of hunger brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
It was awarded 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," the Nobel committee said on Friday.
"This is a proud moment, the nomination was itself enough, but winning the Nobel Prize is nothing short of a feat," said Tomson Phiri, WFP spokesperson in Geneva.
"During the pandemic we were the biggest airline in the world when all commercial airlines were grounded, we moved assistance and delivered assistance through our global common services and so our staff were able to stay and deliver in communities where people were at risk of the infection and hunger," Phiri said.
"One of the beauties of WFP activities is that not only do we provide food for today and tomorrow, but we also are equipping people with the knowledge, the means to sustain themselves for the next day and the days after," Phiri added.
The award comes with a 10 million krona ($1.1 million) cash prize and a gold medal to be handed out in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, the death anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel.
This is the 12th time that the United Nations has been given the prestigious award.
Pope Francis and the WFP
The Vatican, and Pope Francis in particular, have been big supporters of the WFP.
The pope is a strong advocate of the fight against hunger and malnutrition and this past July he donated 25,000 euros to the World Food Programme as "an expression of his closeness to those affected by the pandemic and to those who are engaged in essential services for the poor and weakest and most vulnerable people in our society".
The Vatican said it was a "symbolic" gesture to express his "paternal encouragement towards the organization's humanitarian work and toward other countries willing to adhere to forms of support for integral development and public health in this time of crisis, and to combat social instability, food insecurity, rising unemployment, and the collapse of the economic systems of the most vulnerable nations".
Pope Francis visited WFP headquarters in June 2016 and on that occasion he condemned the cynical use of hunger as a "weapon of war" and the "strange paradox" that the world faced.
"Whereas forms of aid and development projects are obstructed by involved and incomprehensible political decisions, skewed ideological visions and impenetrable customs barriers, weaponry is not," he said.
The pope also pointed out how "In some cases, hunger itself is used as a weapon of war… (Weapons) circulate with brazen and virtually absolute freedom in many parts of the world. As a result, wars are fed, not people," said Francis.
The WFP, alleviating world hunger
Founded in 1961, the UN agency, which is the largest provider of food aid worldwide, helped 97 million people last year, distributing 15 billion rations to people in 88 countries.
It prides itself on being "the leading humanitarian organisation" in a world where, by its own estimates, some 690 million people -- one in 11 -- go to bed hungry every night.
War can be caused by hunger, but hunger is also a consequence of war, with people living in areas of conflict three times more likely to be undernourished than those living in countries at peace, the WFP has said.
This year the outlook for the world was more challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to job losses, saw largescale disruption of supply chains and made food more expensive.
"The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world," the Nobel committee said.
"In countries such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the combination of violent conflict and the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation," it said.