David Beasley's life work is to bridge political, religious and ethnic boundaries. As executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), he is having the best day of his life, receiving notification of this year's Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to WFP and celebrating the sacrifice of so many as they help fill the stomachs of starving people around the world.
"This is unbelievable," Beasley said in a video posted on his Twitter account @WFPChief. "Talk about the most exciting point and time in your life is the Nobel Peace Prize, and it's because of the WFP family," he said today upon learning of the recognition, giving all credit to the 17,000 staffers. "They're out there in the most difficult, complex places in the world, whether it's war, conflict, climate extremes, it doesn't matter. They're out there and they deserve this award.
"We are deeply humbled," he added.
WFP was created in 1961 at the request of President Dwight Eisenhower. It was to be a three-year experimental partnership between the U.S. and the U.N. system to address world hunger. Its value was proven, and the program continues today, led by Beasley, who previously represented the Republican party in the South Carolina House of Representatives and as the state's governor.
The organization is committed to ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition by 2030. One in nine people worldwide still do not have enough to eat.
During today's announcement, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen said the motivation for choosing WFP was "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."
In 2019, WFP assisted 97 million people—the largest number since 2012—in 88 countries. On any given day, the organization has 5,600 trucks, 30 ships and nearly 100 planes on the move, delivering food and other assistance to those most in need.
Ramping Up Amid COVID-19
World Vision United States is WFP's largest implementing partner. It works with 27 countries.
"After decades of progress in the fight against hunger, the COVID-19 pandemic will double the number of people facing acute hunger to more than 265 million this year," according to the WFP. Worldwide, 10,000 more children will die of hunger every month in the first year of the pandemic.
"As WFP's largest implementing partner, we work together in more than 27 countries, including many of the world's toughest places to be a child, where hunger and malnutrition rob children of their God-given potential," said Edgar Sandoval Sr., World Vision United States president and CEO. "In our program areas, we are already seeing these deadly aftershocks, as lockdowns mean parents are unable to secure an income to buy food or bring critically ill children to our feeding centers for treatment."
While some feared the Trump administration would cut funding for WFP, Beasley convinced the U.S. government to give more. This year, the U.S. is donating $2.7 billion out of WFP's 6.4 billion budget.
"The frontline in the battle against the coronavirus is shifting from the rich world to the poor world," Beasley said. "Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos. Without it, we could see increased social unrest and protests, a rise in migration, deepening conflict and widespread undernutrition among populations that were previously immune from hunger."
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