The challenges we face as a global community are more complex and urgent than ever. In 2017, a record number of emergencies, fuelled by conflict and the effects of climate change, saw humanitarian needs surge to an all-time high. As a result, the number of people afflicted by acute hunger has risen from 80 million to 124 million in just two years. These crises threaten to undo much of the hard-won progress made in recent decades in the fight against hunger.
Yet we at WFP continue to go all-out to reach the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people with life-saving assistance. Last year, we scored a number of successes in our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. To take one example, in 2017 we fed 16.5 million schoolchildren.
But the obstacles to eradicating hunger, once and for all, are still immense. Consider recent events in Tanganyika, Democratic Republic of Congo, where 667 primary schools have been destroyed by political and inter-ethnic violence. That’s 40 percent of all primary schools in the province. The transformative impact that school meals programmes can have on long-term economic development – from boosting school attendance to promoting gender equality – will never be realized if schools are not open in the first place.
The lesson we must draw is that humanitarian and development efforts are closely interlinked and will rise or fall together. The events in Tanganyika are also a stark reminder that along with successes we will suffer setbacks. No matter: we have to keep working and striving, day after day, to meet the global ambitions laid out in the Agenda 2030 vision of a world free from hunger and poverty.
We still have a long way to go. Last year, in a worrying reversal, the number of hungry people around the world grew to 815 million. Proliferating conflicts, more frequent natural disasters and poor governance are conspiring to push peace and prosperity further out of reach. But with sufficient political will, and the necessary funds, I believe we can overcome these obstacles and get back on track.
As humanitarians, we will play our full part - and do our utmost to uphold the highest standards at all times. We recognize and embrace our responsibility to ensure that a culture of rights, dignity and respect is systematically enforced and extended to all. And I offer a solemn pledge: on my watch at WFP, there will be no exemptions from the highest ethical standards, no waiver from gender equality, no time-out from our duty of care.
Despite all the challenges, Zero Hunger remains our destination and WFP remains committed to Agenda 2030. Please continue working with us to get there – the children and families we serve deserve no less.
In hope and gratitude,
Executive Director - World Food Programme