Legendary Gymnast Is WFP's First Chinese Ambassador

Published on 14 October 2009

Getting lunch ready for children at the Phelisanong orphanage.
Copyright: WFP/Tang Shizeng

WFP has celebrated 30 years of cooperation with China by appointing the legendary Olympic gymnast, Li Ning, its first ever Chinese Ambassador Against Hunger.

BEIJING - Lin Ning, who knew the pain of hunger in his youth but overcame it to become a world champion, is an inspirational figure, said Sheila Sisulu, WFP Deputy Executive Director, at a ceremony in Beijing to announce the new Chinese Ambassador Against Hunger.

“It is a great privilege to have Li Ning on WFP’s team,”  Sisulu said . “He knew the pain of hunger, he worked hard to become a world champion and is now a dedicated humanitarian. What an inspiration!”

“In China we still remember the feeling of hunger and the warmth of being helped. Today, there are about one billion hungry people in the world. I hope everyone will join the fight against hunger being led by WFP,” Li Ning remarked.

First agency

WFP was among the first international aid agencies to work in China. Between 1979 and 2005 WFP donated US $1 billion worth of food to 30 million people in every province and autonomous region on the country’s mainland.

Together, WFP and the Chinese government helped millions of people out of poverty. With WFP food as an incentive, they built roads, dams and irrigation systems, planted trees and even learned to read and write. By 2005, China was not only growing enough food for its own people, it was also able to give food aid to other countries.

Funded operations

WFP’s food assistance to China stopped that year and since then, China has provided US $20 million to WFP’s operations in other countries, saving lives and contributing to peace, stability and development.

At the ceremony, Vice-Minister of Agriculture, Niu Dun, announced that China has contributed US $3 million in 2009. Later this year, Li Ning will visit Bangladesh to understand better how part of those funds are being used.

“WFP is very proud to have cooperated with China over the past 30 years,” Sisulu said. “China proves that hunger can be beaten. We are very grateful for its support and look forward to putting our partnership at the service of other developing countries.”