Officials at the Anglican Communion have welcomed the news that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Announcing the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee praised the WFP 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."
The Anglican Communion, the family of 41 national and regional churches, issued its heartfelt congratulations to those involved in the expansive food programme, which assisted almost 100 million people last year.
Their representative to the United Nations, Mr Jack Palmer-White, said: “I am delighted to congratulate the World Food Programme on being awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize 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.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is not simply a health crisis. It has had a profound impact on other basic and fundamental rights that all people should enjoy,” he said. “The impact of the pandemic on global food security and the right to food is deeply concerning, particularly where it has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities and has pushed communities to the brink of famine. It is estimated that 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world. Without the work of the World Food Programme, millions of people would die of hunger.
“Sadly, there is still a significant funding gap between what the World Food Programme needs to support those who are hungry around the world, and what UN member states and international financial institutions have pledged to fund. If we are to achieve the second of the Sustainable Development Goals – to reach zero hunger around the world – we all need to do more to provide the finance, technical support and political will to make this possible.”
Speaking to Premier, Gwyn Williams from Christian charity Feed the Hungry said Covid-19 had made reaching people difficult, despite their charity having food ready to be sent out: "We've heard of pastors who have died of hunger out in Nicaragua, because we've not been able to deliver food to them,” he said. “Hunger has killed more people than Covid during this time, just because they have not been able to get access to food. So, it's a real, real pressure on us to be able to get food out there to those places to start building community again.”
The closure of schools in countries with food shortages has also meant children have missed out as many charities work with schools to deliver meals to young people.
Palmer-White added: “As Christians, we have an unequivocal biblical mandate in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry. Right across the Anglican Communion, there are countless programmes and initiatives seeking to tackle hunger in its different contexts. A closer working relationship between faith actors and the World Food Programme can be a blessing to the world, and I encourage the World Food Programme to work more intentionally with faith communities across the world, for the benefit of those most in need.”
The Anglican Alliance, a charity established to facilitate and coordinate the work of the global network of Anglican relief and development agencies, also offered its "warmest congratulations".
“This is worthy recognition of the courageous and compassionate role that WFP plays across the world in bringing food, assistance and, above all, hope to nearly 100 million people in communities facing conflict, insecurity, poverty, and the brutal daily trauma of hunger," said the Revd Rachel Carnegie, Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance.
“As Anglicans we have connected with WFP over many years, in places such as South Sudan, where their food and logistics assistance has brought direct support and human dignity to communities devastated by conflict. In this time as the world faces COVID-19, the service WFP brings to the world has never been more needed as the terrible impact of the pandemic increases inequality and vulnerability and drives millions into poverty and hunger.
The WFP's Executive Director David Beasley, who is also a committed Christian, said that the award was a "humbling, moving recognition of the work of WFP staff who lay their lives on the line every day to bring food and assistance for close to 100 million hungry children, women and men across the world".
He continued: "Every one of the 690 million hungry people in the world today has the right to live peacefully and without hunger. Today, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has turned the global spotlight on them and on the devastating consequences of conflict. Climate shocks and economic pressures have further compounded their plight. And now, a global pandemic with its brutal impact on economies and communities, is pushing millions more to the brink of starvation.
"The Nobel Peace Prize is not WFP’s alone. We work closely with government, organizations and private sector partners whose passion for helping the hungry and vulnerable equals ours. We could not possibly help anyone without them. We are an operational agency and the daily work of our staff each day is driven by our core values of integrity, humanity and inclusion.
"Where there is conflict, there is hunger. And where there is hunger, there is often conflict. Today is a reminder that food security, peace and stability go together. Without peace, we cannot achieve our global goal of zero hunger; and while there is hunger, we will never have a peaceful world."
The WFP distributes more than 15 billion food rations per year, employing more than 17,000 staff across the world, 90 per cent of whom are based in the countries where the agency provides assistance. In 2019, the programme raised a record-breaking $8 billion for its work.