In 1960, then President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented a proposal to the United Nations General Assembly whereby he said: “…devising a workable scheme to provide food to member states through the United Nations system…” The proposal gave birth to the World Food Program (W.F.P.), an American creation that is still in place today. Unfortunately, the W.F.P. faces enormous challenges – particularly from the ongoing conflict in Syria. This crisis has placed tremendous stress on the financial resources of the U.N. body responsible for providing food aid to those vulnerable populations in conflict zones. A recent editorial in The New York Times discussed the fact that the situation is so dire that the W.F.P. had to suspend its voucher program – a vital lifeline for the 1.7 million Syrian refugees. U.N. food aid also assists in supplying food to 4 million internally displaced persons in Syria. As the editorial points out, the vouchers act like debit cards in that they allow refugees to purchase critical food supplies for themselves and their families. The United States is the largest donor country to the W.F.P. (it relies mainly on donations). It has given approximately $1 billion to the W.F.P. for Syrian assistance, and recently gave a donation of $125 million. The U.S. cannot go it alone. Other nations, (Europe, are you listening?), need to step up to the plate and fund this essential program. It is in everyone’s interest to do so. As The New York Times editorial pointed out, it is a “…shared responsibility of all nations to assist people forced to flee their countries and lose their livelihoods through no fault of their own.” Respected Media Organization Sounds Alarm To further highlight the seriousness of what is occurring in Syria the venerable newsmagazine ’60 Minutes’ aired a report on November 30th by CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley titled, “War and Hunger.” For over three years war has raged in this country. The situation has absolutely deteriorated. For this piece, Mr. Pelley interviewed Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Program. She told the news anchor, “Are we willing to lose a generation of children to hunger? To lack of access to medicines? To lack of access to water while we wait until the fighting stops? No, we can’t.” The staff of the W.F.P. put themselves at risk in an effort to save the men, women and children who are merely victims caught in the crosshairs of war’s inhumanity. The report by ’60 Minutes’ highlights the injustice of war. If the world would watch the images of the children from this region, the look of utter despair on their faces, it would move them to action. Any civilized nation would want to respond, wouldn’t it? The global food arm of the U.N. is doing incredible work; they enter many of the worlds’ hotspots, places where no one else would dare tread, to provide critical life sustaining resources for those people of the world who would otherwise not survive.
Tirelessly Serving Those in Need W.F.P. staff are the first-responders to natural disasters, as in the recent typhoon that hit the Philippines. They are a true global humanitarian agency; they ignore the dangers that await them in some of the remotest parts of the world. There is a job to do, and they do it. No questions asked. From the earthquake in Haiti, to the conflict zones of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR) and, of course, Syria, to famine-stricken countries like South Sudan, the W.F.P. staff must navigate some of the most difficult terrain to reach those in need. They do it because they make a difference, not because they seek recognition and fame. Their names will not often appear on the front-page of a major newspaper or on the cover of a news magazine; nevertheless, their work continues -often unnoticed- except for those people who are very grateful to see them when they need their assistance. This is why the United Nations Association supports the work of the U.N. and affiliated agencies like the World Food Program. It is because of the dedicated work of the men and women of the W.F.P. They deserve the support and backing of the United States, as well as the entire global community. President Eisenhower had the foresight and vision over 50 years ago when he proposed the creation of an agency to handle food distribution through the U.N. system. Can we do anything less today than provide our full backing to the work of the U.N., especially agencies like the W.F.P.? Think about this statistic for one moment: Tonight around the world –even here in the U.S. - 1 in 9 people will go to bed hungry. This is a difficult figure to grasp when we live in a land of plenty; however, it is all too true. People are often quick to criticize the work of the U.N. If they stop and take a close look at the positive work the world body accomplishes, perhaps their perspective would be a little different.