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UN’s World Food Program wins Nobel Peace Prize

Organization combating hunger worldwide helps feed tens of millions every year; it operates in dozens of countries, as well as in the Palestinian territories

Workers offload sacks of cereals from the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) off a truck in Minkaman, South Sudan, June 26, 2014 (AP Photo/Matthew Abbott)
Workers offload sacks of cereals from the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) off a truck in Minkaman, South Sudan, June 26, 2014 (AP Photo/Matthew Abbott)

The UN’s World Food Program won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its efforts to combat hunger and improve conditions for peace in conflict areas, the Nobel committee said.

“With this year’s award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to turn the eyes of the world towards the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger,” Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said on unveiling the winner in Oslo.

The WFP was honored 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 jury said

Whether delivering food by helicopter or on the back of an elephant or a camel, the WFP prides itself on being “the leading humanitarian organization” in a world where, by its own estimates, some 690 million people — one in 11 — go to bed on an empty stomach.

Evacuees wait beside rice sacks from the World Food Program in Pikit town, North Cotabato, Southern Philippines, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008 (AP Photo/Jeff Maitem)

Founded in 1961, the UN organization helped 97 million people last year, distributing 15 billion rations to people in 88 countries last year.

The statistics are dizzying but only a fraction of the total number in need.

Despite making progress over the past three decades, the UN’s goal to eradicate hunger by 2030 appears out of reach if current trends continue, according to experts.

Women and children are usually those most at risk.

The WFP was deeply honored by its win, a spokesman said.

“This is humbling,” Tomson Phiri told reporters during a regular briefing in Geneva, adding it was “really a proud moment” for the UN organization.

“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.”

Director of the World Food Program David Beasley speaks during an interview, on a visit organized by the WFP, in the conflict-affected remote town of Kauda, Nuba Mountains, Sudan, Jan. 9, 2020 (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The WFP is also active in the Palestinian territories, and “provides the poorest and most severely food insecure non-refugee populations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with unconditional food assistance.”

According to the WFP website, about one in three Palestinians are food insecure. In Gaza, two in three do not have food security.

A Palestinian worker unloads foodstuffs donated by the European Union through the World Food Program and distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the West Bank village of Arrabeh near Jenin Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007.(AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

The Nobel prize — which consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a check for 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million) — will be presented to the winner on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of Swedish industrialist and philanthropist Alfred Nobel, who created the awards in his will.

Depending on the coronavirus restrictions in place at the time, it will either be awarded in-person at a scaled-back ceremony in Oslo, or remotely in an online ceremony.

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