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Leader of Nobel Peace Prize-winning World Food Programme on global starvation crisis

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to the United Nations’ World Food Programme for its efforts to fight global hunger, especially during the pandemic, which has brought millions more people to the brink of starvation. The organization’s executive director, David Beasley, joins Amna Nawaz to discuss what the honor means and why he hopes wealthy individuals will step up to help the hungry.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to the U.N.'s World Food Programme for its work combating global hunger, especially during the pandemic.

    Amna Nawaz spoke early this morning with the WFP's leader, who was in Niger as part of a mission.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And joining me now is David Beasley. He's the executive director of the World Food Programme.

    David Beasley, welcome to you. And congratulations.

    So, tell us, how does it feel?

  • David Beasley:

    You know, it's absolutely unbelievable.

    I'm here in Niger, which is probably the most appropriate place to be as we receive this award, because I want the world to understand that people are struggling all over the world.

    And so I was in a meeting, as we were talking about issues in Niger, starvation because of climate extremes, as well as war and conflict from extremist groups. And so somebody walked in the meeting and said, a Nobel Peace Prize. I'm like, yes, wow. Who got it? Who got it? And they said, we did, the World Food Programme. And I was like, oh, my gosh. Wow.

    I mean, the first time I — I think, in my life, I was speechless.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Beasley:

    Thank you, all. Thank you.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Anyone who knows you knows that it is very rare for David Beasley to be speechless.

    (LAUGHTER)

    But let me ask you, because they said your agency was able to intensify the work that you're doing to meet this dramatic rise in global hunger around the world during the pandemic. They said you met it with impressive ability.

    But tell us, what has that rise been like? How much worse has global hunger gotten, and how have you been able to meet that need?

  • David Beasley:

    Well, this is what's really, I think, the great news that we have gotten this award, so we can really have a call to action.

    The bad news is the fact that we should be getting this award because of all the hunger around the world. And, quite frankly, it's — most of it is manmade-driven. And if you compound that with climate extremes, when you look at the fact of, just in the last three years, the number of people on the brink of starvation had risen before COVID 80 million to 135 million.

    And now, with COVID, the number of people — and I'm not talking about people going to bed hungry — on the brink of starvation is now to 270 starvation 270 million people.

    And, quite frankly, with the billionaires making hundreds of billions of dollars with COVID, we're facing the worst humanitarian crises since World War II. They need to step up. We need an extra $5 billion to save millions of lives around the world.

    This is a call to action. With all the wealth in the world today, no one should be dying from hunger, not a single person.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    David, you have mentioned $5 billion in need just to keep people off the brink of starvation.

    And you reference those billionaires. There's more than 2,000 billionaires in the world. You have made the point before. When talk to them, do you think that they will step up in this moment? What's been the response from the world's wealthiest people?

  • David Beasley:

    Well, the $5 billion that we're talking about is additional money, because we feed 100 million people.

    It literally is — the starvation rate is spiking because of COVID and economic deterioration. The billionaires have got to step in. We're just asking them to step in this one time to help humanity. The world needs them.

    And I will be very disappointed if they don't. But what is — I mean, I know $5 billion is a lot of money, but for the billionaires that are making literally hundreds of billions during COVID, come on. Come on. Please, be with us. Join our hands. Show the world you care. Let's do it together, because no one should go to bed hungry. No one should starve to death today because of hunger, with the wealth we have today.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    David, where are the hot spots? You and I have spoken before about Yemen, where two-thirds of the population is on — is food-insecure at the moment. Where else is the greatest need right now?

  • David Beasley:

    Well, economic deterioration is really causing disruption for a lot of people's lives all over the world, but especially in places like Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq.

    And where I am right now is in Niger, in the Sahel, where millions of people have been impacted because of climate extremes and compounded by extremist groups that are coming in, exploiting the situation, and now COVID on top of that.

    And there are literally about a dozen or two dozen places around the world that, if we don't get the support that they need, three things are going to happen. One, you are going to have famine, I mean, literally of biblical proportions. Number two, you're going to have destabilization. And, number three, you're going to have mass migration.

    And we can solve all that. We have a cure against starvation, and it is called food. And we need money to get it to the people that need the help. If you don't, you're going to pay for it 1,000-fold more with the problems that result from the lack of security, because, when you have food insecurity, you have destabilization, war and conflict, and migration.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    David Beasley, it is an incredible honor for a wonderful organization, led by you, the executive director of the World Food Programme, today awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Congratulations to you and your team. And thank you for being with us.

  • David Beasley:

    Thank you so much. Great to be with you.

    And I hope to see you again with better news, with more money.

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