GLOBAL – The World Food Programme (WFP) has won the 2020 Nobel peace prize for its efforts to combat hunger and to improve conditions for peace in conflict areas, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

The chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, revealed the 2020 laureate at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, adding that the committee gave the award to the WFP because it wanted to “turn the eyes of the world to the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger”. Hunger, she said, was used as a weapon of war and conflict.

The United Nations body — the largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security internationally — last year provided assistance to nearly one million people in 88 countries.

Hunger was used as a weapon of war and conflict.

But in many countries, particularly those wracked by war, the combination of conflict and the pandemic has sharply increased the numbers of people on the brink of starvation.

Berit added that the award was also a call to the international community to fund the UN agency adequately and to ensure people were not starving. She said the WFP would have been a worthy recipient of the prize without the coronavirus pandemic.

But the virus had strengthened the reasons for giving it to the WFP, including the need for “multilateralism” in a time of global crisis.

“It’s a very important UN organisation. The UN plays a key role in upholding human rights. Food is one of our most basic needs,” she said,

The WFP responded by tweeting its thanks, adding: “This is a powerful reminder to the world that peace and #ZeroHunger go hand-in-hand.”

David Beasley, the WFP’s executive director, also tweeted a video saying it was “first time in my life I’ve been speechless … this is unbelievable.”

He thanked the WFP family who work in the most difficult, most complex places in the world saying that they deserve the award.

“We are deeply humbled to receive the #NobelPeacePrize. This is an incredible recognition of the dedication of the @WFP family, working to end hunger every day in 80+ countries. Thank you @NobelPrize for this incredible honor!” he tweeted.

The World Food Program, established in 1961 after a proposal by President Dwight Eisenhower, has been a major behind-the-scenes player helping people affected by some of the world’s most devastating humanitarian disasters, including famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s, wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

This year, 318 nominees were known to be under consideration, 211 individuals and 107 organisations. Nominations can be made by a select group, including national lawmakers, heads of state and certain international institutions.

One hundred Nobel peace prizes have been awarded since 1901, to individuals and 24 organisations. While the other Nobel prize laureates are announced in Stockholm, the peace prize is awarded in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

Along with enormous prestige, the prize comes with a £870,000 (US$1.127m) cash award and a gold medal to be handed out at a ceremony in Oslo, the anniversary of the prize founder, Alfred Nobel’s death.

Other figures who were considered in the running for this year’s prize included the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, the Russian dissident and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, recovering from a nerve agent attack he blames on the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the World Health Organization for its role in addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, the Nobel committee awarded the prize for physiology and medicine for discovering the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus.

Tuesday’s prize for physics honoured breakthroughs in understanding the mysteries of cosmic black holes, and the chemistry prize on Wednesday went to scientists behind a powerful gene-editing tool.

The literature prize was awarded to the American poet Louise Glück on Thursday for her “candid and uncompromising” work.

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