BEIJING -- Back in 1979, when WFP was first invited to China to assist refugees from neighbouring Vietnam, bags of food were carried away on the back of bicycles. From then on, together with the Government, WFP helped 30 million Chinese people feed themselves.
Trees were planted, roads built and irrigation canals dug. Parents were encouraged to send their children to school and people in poor, remote areas were helped to learn to read and write. By 2005, when China no longer needed food assistance from WFP, farmers in the project areas had tripled their incomes and doubled their crop yields.
From recipient to donor
Once a recipient of WFP’s assistance, the Government of China gradually became a net donor to WFP’s operations in other countries. The exhibition featured images of Chinese donations of canned fish for survivors of the tsunami in Sri Lanka. It showed the Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia sharing a school meal with children in Mekele. Bags of maize proudly marked “China Aid” being carried away from distribution points in Zimbabwe drew lots of media and public attention.
By far the most popular feature was the series of photographs documenting China’s “Prince of Gymnastics”, Mr Li Ning, who visited Lesotho in December 2008 to help distribute the Government of China’s donation. Mr Li, who remembers the hunger his own family suffered in the 1960s, called on his fellow Chinese to “defeat hunger and build a healthy and harmonious world.”
Food Force and FreeRice
Dozens of children queued each day to play the Chinese language version of “Food Force”, an educational video game, and “Free Rice”, a website that donates rice to WFP for each question answered correctly.
Surrounded by outlets for famous brand luxury goods at the China World Trade Center, the exhibition was a reminder to the residents of Beijing that hunger still grips close to 1 billion people worldwide – but that just as it was in China, hunger can be beaten.