“An empty stomach is a gaping hole in the heart of a society. A stunted child’s growth in the mind is progress for her and for everyone”, Secretary-General António Guterres attested to the Executive Board of the World Food Programme (WFP).
The top UN official lauded WFP for delivering food to “the most remote locations, in the most dangerous situations, in the most challenging contexts”, with enormous commitment, generosity and competence.
“With human need all around, and at times with bullets and bombs shrieking through the air, you brought life-saving assistance to vulnerable people in a way that is an example for the whole world”, he said. “You provide hope not only by helping people to meet their immediate food and nutrition needs, but also enabling people to change their lives”.
He pointed to the important message at the heart of the decision by the Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize to WFP this year, that “food is peace” and expressed his happiness that the agency’s “absolutely outstanding” work was being recognized.
“You are messengers of peace, so essential messengers for our global ceasefire”, said Mr. Guterres. The UN chief is building support behind his global call to silence the guns, urging combatants to unite against the coronavirus instead.
Although WFP, like many other UN agencies, must work in politically charged settings, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the state of global food security, flagged the UN chief.
“Hunger is rising again…[and] famine is again threatening several countries”, said Mr. Guterres.
He cited WFP figures that 690 million people do have not enough to eat, as 130 million more, risk being pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of the year, spelling out that “his is totally unacceptable”.
Moreover, the impacts of food insecurity are “profoundly gendered”, sidelining the very women who can help “in overcoming this challenge” to greater suffering.
Appealing for a massive rescue package for the most vulnerable people and countries, he stressed the need to ensure that recovery address inequalities and fragilities and that health and social protection systems are strengthened with more robust food systems a “key part of the future”.
“We need food systems that provide decent and safe livelihoods”, he said, that are central to a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the ravages of the pandemic.
On climate change, the UN chief said that food systems would be “essential in bringing us to net zero and I believe that what you can do as the World Food Programme is essential”, he asserted.
Mr. Guterres spotlighted WFP’s “huge” financing gap of around $5 billion and called on the international community’s support.
“We need to make sure that you have the resources to be at the right place at the right time, supporting people”, he told the board.