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U.N. World Food Programme Wins 2020 Nobel Peace Prize

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This year's Nobel Peace Prize has been given to the United Nations World Food Program for its efforts to fight hunger and prevent the use of starvation as a weapon of war. The WFP is one of the largest aid organizations in the world. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports it has a reputation for being on the front lines of global crises.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: The World Food Program is known for dropping bags of grain out of planes in the midst of famines and airlifting tons of rice into villages destroyed by typhoons. But the work of the organization goes far beyond food. The U.N. calls on the WFP's fleet of helicopters and cargo planes and boats to move people and supplies into disaster zones. In Bangladesh, the organization literally moved mountains, flattening hillsides to make space for shelters for Rohingya refugees. And day in and day out, they support long-term nutrition programs, including subsidizing local farmers and markets.

Today, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, praised the WFP as an instrument of peace for its work to break the cycle of hunger and armed conflict.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERIT REISS-ANDERSEN: Providing assistance to increase food security not only prevents hunger but can also help to improve prospects for stability and peace.

BEAUBIEN: The World Food Program was founded by the U.N. in 1961 at the request of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The U.S. is the largest donor to the agency. Last year, WFP trucks, boats and planes delivered food to nearly 100 million people around the globe.

DAVID BEASLEY: We cannot forget about those that are suffering because of war and conflict and climate change.

BEAUBIEN: David Beasley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, is now the head of the World Food Program. He was excited and shocked to get the news this morning that his agency just won the Nobel Peace Prize. But he added that it's an outrage that in 2020, people are still going to bed hungry.

BEASLEY: And the fact that today in the world that the hunger rate is increasing and the number of people on the brink of starvation is increasing is an indictment on humanity. We have to do better.

BEAUBIEN: In the humanitarian world, the WFP is highly respected for its speed, efficiency and logistical muscle.

JOSE ANDRES: I've been in Mozambique, and I've seen the amazing work that the men and women of World Food Program has done in Mozambique.

BEAUBIEN: The activist celebrity chef Jose Andres, through his World Central Kitchen, has ended up providing food in some of the same humanitarian crises as the WFP. And he says the agency deserves this Nobel Peace Prize.

ANDRES: They saw the amazing work they were doing dropping foods in very remote villages and doing a very good job bringing that food in an organized, systematic way.

BEAUBIEN: Jose Andres says he hopes this year's Nobel Peace Prize forces politicians and governments to take the issue of eliminating hunger more seriously.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MATTHEW SALTZ AND RYAN HELSING'S "CASCADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.