News Excerpt
Recently, The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize to the UN agency World Food Programme (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 WFP is the 28th organisation awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since its inception in 1901.

•    World Food Programme (WFP) was established in 1961. Then US President Dwight Eisenhower had suggested the idea of providing food aid through the UN system. Months after it was set up, the WFP faced a humanitarian crisis when more than 12,000 people died in an earthquake in Boein Zahra in northern Iran.
•    The WFP sent tonnes of wheat, sugar and tea. Thereafter, it played an important role in providing food aid in Thailand and Algeria.
•    The WFP is headquartered in Rome, Italy. It is governed by an Executive Board, which consists of 36 member states. It is headed by an Executive Director, who is appointed jointly by the UN Secretary-General and the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Executive Director is appointed for fixed five-year terms.

What is the scale of its work?
    The WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency combating hunger.
    In 2019, it assisted 97 million people – the largest number since 2012 – in 88 countries, says the WFP.
    The same year, it delivered about 4.4 million tonnes of food, purchased $1.7 billion worth of food from 91 countries, and $762 million worth of goods and services from 156 countries.
    Every year, they distribute more than 15 billion rations at an estimated average cost per ration of US$ 0.61.
    These numbers lie at the roots of WFP’s unparalleled reputation as an emergency responder, one that gets the job done quickly at scale in the most difficult environments.
    In 1989, Operation Lifeline Sudan is launched: leading a consortium of UN agencies and charities alongside UNICEF, WFP released 1.5 million tons of food into the skies above was has since become South Sudan.
    From the rebuilding of post-war South Korea in the late 1960s, through the emergency response after genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, the long-running conflict in South Sudan and the more recent wars in Yemen and Syria, WFP has been a constant presence for the poor and the destitute, refugees and the dispossessed.

Why does the world need a food programme?
    Eradicating hunger is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. The WFP is the UN’s primary agency that works towards this goal.
    According to the WFP, there are 690 million hungry people around the world and around 60% of them live in countries affected by conflict.
    The number of hungry people is expected to increase further due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
    The WFP estimates suggest that by 2030, nearly half of the global poor will be living in fragile and conflict-affected situations. It says people living in countries with long-running crises are more than twice as likely to be undernourished than people elsewhere (2.5 times as much).

Hunger in India
    In the 2020 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 94th out of the 107 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2020 GHI scores. With a score of 27.2, India has a level
    of hunger that is serious.
    The situation has worsened in the 2015-19 period, when the prevalence of child wasting was 17.3%, in comparison to 2010-14, when it was 15.1%.
    India fares worst in child wasting (low weight for height, reflecting acute undernutrition) and child stunting (low height for age, reflecting chronic undernutrition), which together make up a third of the total score.
    Although it is still in the poorest category, however, child stunting has actually improved significantly, from 54% in 2000 to less than 35% now.
    Child wasting, on the other hand, has not improved in the last two decades, and is rather worse than it was decade ago.
    India has improved in both child mortality rates, which are now at 3.7%, and in terms of undernourishment, with about 14% of the total population which gets an insufficient caloric intake.
    In the region of south, east and south-eastern Asia, the only countries which fare worse than India are Timor-Leste, Afghanistan and North Korea.
    Pandemic effect as per Global Hunger Index
    Globally, nearly 690 million people are undernourished, according to the report, which warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could have affected the progress made on reducing hunger and poverty.
    The world is not on track to achieve the second Sustainable Development Goal — known as Zero Hunger for short — by 2030. At the current pace, approximately 37 countries will fail even to reach low hunger, as defined by the Global Hunger Index Severity Scale, by 2030.
    These projections do not account for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may worsen hunger and undernutrition in the near term and affect countries’ trajectories into the future.

What is WFP’s role in India?
     The has been working in India since 1963, two years after its establishment. Apart WFP from focusing on reforms in the Targeted Public Distribution System, it provides policy inputs, advocacy and technical assistance for improving access to food.
     The WFP has proposed some unique initiatives like Automatic Grain Dispensing Machine (Annapurti) and Mobile Storage Units for the effective implementation of TPDS.
     Annapurti allows beneficiaries to withdraw their foodgrain quota accurately and at a time of their choice.
     It can dispense two commodities at a speed of 25 kg per 1.3 minutes. It has a storage capacity of 200 kg to 500 kg.
     It has completed a pilot on rice fortification used in the government’s Mid-day Meals scheme in Varanasi. Since December 2018, 4,145 tonnes of fortified rice has been produced and fed to 300,000 schoolchildren.
     Even during the pandemic, WFP India has worked with the central and state governments. For instance, it signed a MoU with the Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission.
     Under the agreement, WFP will provide technical assistance for setting up supplementary nutrition production units in 18 districts for supply of quality food to about 33 lakh beneficiaries of the Anganwadi scheme (Integrated Child Development Services). It has also prepared a guidance note for the re-opening of schools during the pandemic.

Way forward
    The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world. In countries such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the combination of violent conflict and the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation.
    In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts. As the organisation itself has stated, ‘Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for selecting the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
By the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee since 1901. Alfred Nobel left no explanation as to why the prize for peace was to be awarded by a Norwegian committee while the other four prizes were to be handled by Swedish committees.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee is composed of five members appointed by the Storting (Norwegian Parliament). The Committee’s composition reflects the relative strengths of the political parties in the Storting, and is assisted by specially appointed expert advisers.

Sustainable Development Goals, Global Hunger Index, Poverty and Hunger, Targeted Public Distribution System, Rural Livelihood Mission, etc