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.
“[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 people are suffering around the world,” he added.
Established in 1962, the United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization that delivers food assistance in emergencies and works with communities to improve nutrition and resilience, according to the website. The World Food Programme assisted 97 million people in 88 counties in 2019 alone.
Beasley said he hopes that winning the prize will draw attention to the dire nature of global food insecurities and will hopefully motivate others to act.
“It is indeed an honor to receive this award, as an inspiration to others to step up and help people around the world, because quite frankly this is a very tragic time in world history,” he said.