UNITED NATIONS, Apr 06 (APP): Cindy McCain of the United States Wednesday took the helm at the World Food Programme (WFP), a Rome-based UN agency, amid “unprecedented” global hunger fueled by conflict, climate change and soaring fertilizer prices.
The agency estimates that more than 345 million people worldwide face crisis levels of food insecurity this year, an increase of almost 200 million since early 2020. Of these, 43 million are just one step away from famine.
“Ration cuts are coming if we don’t have the money to get food to those who need it most,” warned Ms. McCain, who is the widow of U.S. Senator John McCain from Arizona, who was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.
“My priorities are clear: increase our resources, improve our effectiveness and scale up partnerships and innovation to bring modern solutions to those most in need.”
Working in particular with the private sector to raise funds and identify new ideas will be particularly important to help the world’s most vulnerable stave off famine, the new WFP chief explained.
“No organization can solve world hunger alone. Today we are asking new friends –especially from the private sector – to step up and join us,” said the new WFP Executive Director, who also announced a new taskforce on innovation “bringing together the best minds in both the public and private sectors” to source concrete ideas.
WFP is known for its Innovation Accelerator, launched in 2015 to identify, pilot and scale up innovation projects which advance the fight against hunger using digital technology. One of these projects is the “Share the Meal” smartphone app, allowing individuals to easily donate money to help feed people in specific emergencies.
Ms. McCain – who takes over from former South Carolina state governor, David Beasley – is well placed to pull the levers of international humanitarianism, having served since 2021 as US Ambassador to WFP and the other Rome-based UN agencies: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), according to the UN.
WFP says that in her role as US Ambassador to these UN bodies, Ms. McCain has seen its operations “up close”, traveling to Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Zambia, Tajikistan and Madagascar over the past year.
In 2022, WFP delivered food assistance to a record 158 million people around the world. The agency works in over 120 countries and territories and its work fighting hunger was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020.
Apart from providing emergency food relief and logistics, including trucks, planes, ships and helicopters in some of the most complex humanitarian operations on the globe, WFP is also the world’s largest provider of school meals.
Just last month the agency released a landmark report on the state of school meals, which provide a “critical safety net” for vulnerable children and households amid the global food crisis, at a time when over 150 million children and young people are going hungry.