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GENEVA - The U.N. World Food Program has been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts in combating hunger and in recognition of its actions "to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict."
In announcing the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized the World Food Program's intensified efforts in providing life-saving assistance to the surging numbers of hungry victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WFP called the award a proud and humbling moment. It said it is a moving recognition of the work of its staff in bringing food and assistance to nearly 100 million people whose lives are torn apart by instability, insecurity and conflict.
WFP spokesman Thomson Phiri said the agency works in 88 countries around the world, most in conflict-affected countries. He said COVID-19 has left few places untouched and few lives unchanged. He added that global hunger is increasing as is acute malnutrition, especially among children and women.
"The economic fallout as a result of COVID has meant that more people than we have had to assist are now looking to ask for assistance. ... Food is indeed the best vaccine that we have until a time when we have a vaccine. It is our hope that we will continue to work together, not only with donor governments but also with foundations, with the private sector in helping defeat hunger," Phiri said.
This is the 12th Nobel prize awarded to the United Nations and its specialized and related agencies. Two U.N. Secretary-Generals, Dag Hammarskjold and Kofi Annan, are among the recipients of the peace prize. It has been awarded twice to the UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency.
U.N. Deputy Spokesman in Geneva Rheal LeBlanc said this year's award to the WFP is a great honor for the United Nations and international community.
"This is going to give a tremendous push to the second sustainable development goal, which is to achieve zero hunger and a goal to which all countries committed to in 2015 when they adopted the SDGs (sustainable development goal)," LeBlanc said. "This is really going to put this objective in the limelight and give it some impetus."
The WFP warned that COVID-19 will push millions of people to the brink of starvation. It pledged to do its best to provide a lifeline to the many in need, but noted that where there is conflict, there is hunger and without peace, it will not be possible to achieve its global goal of zero hunger.