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‘It is literally horrific’: World Food Programme, Nobel Peace Prize winner, fights growing hunger emergency

“We’ve got a vaccine against starvation. It’s called food,” said David Beasley.

David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme, knows the existence of his organization is both a blessing and a curse: it helps so many, but that means many are suffering.

On Friday, that World Food Programme’s fight against hunger and work to prevent the use of hunger as “a weapon of war and conflict” was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Beasley, also the former governor of South Carolina, said the award came as a surprise, but is ultimately a testament to the organization’s much-needed work amid the pandemic.

PHOTO: Linsey Davis interviews the executive director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley on ABC News Prime after the organization won the Nobel Peace Prize Oct. 9, 2020.

Linsey Davis interviews the executive director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley after winning the Nobel Peace Prize Oct. 9, 2020.

“[COVID-19] comes on top of what you already thought was a worst-case scenario and it’s compounded, exacerbated problems around the world. … It is literally horrific,” Beasley told ABC News Prime host Linsey Davis.

At the beginning of this year, 135 million people already faced starvation from manmade conflict and climate extremes, Beasley said. Now, 270 million people are on the brink of starvation.

The award comes with the equivalent of a $1.1 million U.S. cash prize and a gold medal to be handed out at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death.

Beasley told ABC News Prime that the award money and government funding is critical in sustaining the program’s global effort in 2021.

“The economies of the world’s strongest nations on Earth are struggling. We are not going to have the money we need next year. And not only are the resources going to go down, but the needs are going to be going up,” said Beasley.

“We have 18,000 men and women that are out there in the field putting their lives on the line, every day, in war, conflict zones. You name it,” Beasley told ABC News.

He is currently working with the organization in Nigeria, a country that faces a threat from extremist terrorist groups and climate change.

“The good news and the bad news is the fact that we are winning [the award]. But that means

Nobel Peace Prize 2020 won by World Food Programme

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the World Food Programme (WFP) for its “efforts to combat hunger” and its “contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas.”



a large air plane flying in a clear blue sky: A World Food Programme food aid drop near a village in Ayod county, South Sudan, on February 6, 2020.


© TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images
A World Food Programme food aid drop near a village in Ayod county, South Sudan, on February 6, 2020.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which presented the award in Oslo on Friday, also described the organization as “a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”

In awarding the prize, committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen noted the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global food supplies and criticized the politics of populism.

The WFP, a United Nations entity, was created in 1961 and today provides food to over 100 million people a year.

The organization tweeted its “deepest thanks” for the honor, adding: “This is a powerful reminder to the world that peace and #ZeroHunger go hand-in-hand.”

It praised its staff who it said “put their lives on the line every day.”

Executive director David Beasley reacted with joy to the news of his organization’s Nobel win. “It’s the first time in my life I’ve actually been speechless, I really can’t believe it,” he told CNN’s Connect the World from Niger.

He said that the award was a “call to action,” urging people to “step up and step up now.”

“Where there’s starvation there’s conflict, destabilization and migration,” he said, adding that the world was now experiencing “all of those things coupled with Covid.”

Beasley warned there were “possibilities of famines of biblical proportions,” calling for billions of dollars in additional aid to save people around the globe.

“We’re looking for a vaccine for Covid; we have a vaccine for hunger — it’s called food, and we have the food. We need the money and the access to solve it,” he added.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the World Health Organization, which was itself tipped as a frontrunner for the award, praised the decision on Twitter. “Huge admiration and respect for the life-saving work you do for people in need everywhere,” he wrote.



a person riding a horse in a field: Villagers collect food aid dropped from a World Food Programme plane to a village in Ayod county, South Sudan, in February 2020.


© TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images
Villagers collect food aid dropped from a World Food Programme plane to a village in Ayod county, South Sudan, in February 2020.

Tunisian actress Hend Sabry, a WFP ambassador, said she was “proud” of her role and wrote that the organization “is mainly a web of wonderful people from all around the world, doing their best to fight hunger.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation was more conspicuous than ever. It said it wanted to turn the eyes of the world towards the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger.

“The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world,” said Reiss-Andersen.

“In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to