It is heartening to note that The Nobel Prize for Peace – 2020 has been rightly awarded to the UNO’s World Food Programme. The WFP is the largest humanitarian organisation focused on hunger and food security. Founded in 1961, WFP is headquartered in Rome and has offices in 80 countries. It provides food assistance on an average of 91.4 million people each year in 83 countries. Two-third of its activities is conducted in conflict zones. WFP is part of the United Nations Development Groups, which collectively helps to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals of the UNO.
Zero Hunger’ is one of the prioritised SDGs and is targeted to be achieved by 2030. WFP launched its first programme in 1963 on a three-year experimental basis supporting the Nubian population in war-torn Sudan. WFP is financially supported by the governments of the member-nations of the UNO, corporate companies and individual donors. The USA and the EU are the major contributors to this laudable effort of the UNO in its fight against hunger and poverty. WFP is governed by an executive board which consists of representatives from 36 member-nations. David Beasely, former Governor of the State of South Carolina of the USA, is its present Executive Director.
We are alarmed at the exceptional violence of war, terrorism and genocide but we tend to forget the victims of hunger who die in a slower and less spectacular form of violence.
WFP coordinated a five-year pilot project called Purchase for Progress across twenty countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The project helped 8 lakh farmers in improving their agricultural production, post-harvesting handling, food marketing and agricultural finance. The pilot project was a great success as it resulted in the production of 3,66,000 tonnes of food and generated 148 million $ to the farmers of smallholdings.
In 2010, WFP responded to the Haiti earthquake in distributing food aid only to women. This novel method of disbursement ‘food aid only to women’ proved to be a success as the distribution was spread evenly among all household members. School feeding programme in 71 countries helped children to focus on their studies and parents to send their children, especially girls, to school. WFP came to the rescue of the South Asian countries when tsunami made havoc in 2004.
In 2019, WFP was feeding more than 12 million Yemenis, most of them living in zones controlled by Houthi forces. The present pandemic caused by cruel Covid-19 has exacerbated the problem of food insecurity and famine. It is apprehended that the number of hungry people could increase to 270 million due to this deadly disease. We are alarmed at the exceptional violence of war, terrorism and genocide but we tend to forget the victims of hunger who die in a slower and less spectacular form of violence.
Ironically, this great humanitarian organisation, WFP, is not free from the all-pervasive canker called corruption. It is paradoxical that corruption has crept into this huge office of 17,000 staff who work among the people in distress. Charges of corruption, nepotism and harassment of employees are the other side of the story of this elite institution. Let us hope that WFP will overcome these shortcomings and continue in its efforts to combat hunger and create peace in the conflict-affected areas of the world.