Hunger is about so much more than poverty, malnutrition or human development. This was highlighted by the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize that has been awarded to the World Food Programme (WFP), a United Nations (UN) agency, for its efforts to combat hunger, bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and preventing the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.
World Food Programme
The World Food Programme was established in 1961 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), as prompted by United States President Dwight Eisenhower. It later became a full-fledged UN programme in 1965.
The programme primarily works towards eradicating hunger at a global level, in order to achieve SDG 2: Zero Hunger by 2030. Currently, it is the world’s largest humanitarian agency combating hunger.
The UN agency headquartered in Rome, Italy assisted 97 million people in 2019, which is the largest number since 2012, in 88 countries. The same year, it delivered about 4.4 million tonnes of food, purchased USD 1.7 billion worth of food from 91 countries, and USD 762 million worth of goods and services from 156 countries.
According to the World Food Program, there are over 690 million hungry people around the world. The striking observation about them is that around 60% of them live in countries that are war ridden or are affected by conflicts. The observation by the UN agency has highlighted that people living in countries with long-running crises are 2.5 times more likely to be undernourished than people residing in peaceful conditions.
There has been a surge in the number of hungry people across the world because of lockdowns imposed to contain COVID-19 outbreak. It is expected to further increase as people have lost their means of earning, and with disruption in transportation, food prices have increased, making it unaffordable for many.
According to the WFP, nearly half of the global poor will be living in fragile and conflict-affected situations by 2030.
How Hunger is Linked with Conflict
In 2018, the UN Security Council linked hunger with peace by passing a resolution saying, humankind can never eliminate hunger without first establishing peace. Conflicts and wars cause rampant food insecurity. It damages the infrastructure, social stability and disrupts the supply chain. This observation is not new to India, who experienced multiple famines after the World Wars, partition conflict with Pakistan and war with China in 1962.
In fact, often, the warring parties may deliberately use starvation as a strategy. This is not just a practice of today – it was how the mighty Marathas lost the third battle of Panipat as their supply to food was cut off.
Rising Food Insecurity because of COVID-19
Food insecurity is an urgent global challenge. The WFP has reported that unless urgent action is taken, the COVID-19 pandemic could almost double the number of people suffering from acute hunger by the end of 2020. As the pandemic has hit the poorest of the poor the most, they are unable to earn enough to provide nutritious meals for themselves. At such a time, recognition of the importance of food security in form of Nobel Peace Prize is applaud-worthy.
The Nobel Peace Prize award has clearly indicated that in order to establish a world of peace and stability, it is important to ensure food security for all.