Just six months after The Weeknd shared on Instagram that he planned to donate $1 million to provide two million meals —through the United Nations World Food Programme —to Ethiopians facing hunger, the Canadian singer has officially been named a Goodwill Ambassador by the humanitarian organization.
The recognition for the After Hours crooner, born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, took place this week in Los Angeles. “This is such a profound honor because it’s about getting the opportunity to help an entire country and tens of millions of people around the world who are suffering from extreme hunger,” The Weeknd said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “Regardless of political lines and regions we need to save lives for all people, regardless of where they live or who they are. Because people are dying and that is what I care about. It’s about helping every single citizen of Ethiopia who needs it, as well as people around the globe who rely on food assistance to stay alive, and I intend to do my best within the U.N. World Food Programme to do exactly this.”
The Weeknd is the son of Ethiopian immigrants. The East African country continues to grapple with a brutal internal conflict with natives from the northern region of Tigray. He has been vocal about his feelings on the situation and has encouraged others to match his generous donation. According to the U.N., Goodwill Ambassadors are “distinguished individuals, carefully selected from the fields of public life, who have agreed to help focus worldwide attention on the work of the United Nations.”
They’re appointed by the head of the U.N. World Food Programme, and they volunteer their time and talent to raise awareness of U.N. Efforts to improve lives.
“The U.N. World Food Programme is doing urgent and important work to change and save lives on a daily basis and I feel passionately about addressing world hunger and helping people in need,” The Weeknd told Rolling Stone. “Our partnership is an authentic extension of all our efforts and intentions to help those in need and bring an end to so much suffering.”
In another statement, United Nations World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley said the organization was “thrilled to welcome The Weeknd to the WFP family.” “His compassion and commitment to helping the world’s hungriest people is truly inspirational,” he said. “Every night, 811 million people go to bed hungry, and another 270 million are marching toward starvation. This is just not right and we have got to speak out and act today to save lives. We need everyone to come join our movement to end hunger – it is all hands on deck to avoid a global catastrophe.”
In addition to the $1 million he donated to Ethiopia, the 31-year-old singer has also handed out $3 million to several other causes, including $1 million in Covid-19 relief and $300,000 to a fund helping those impacted by the devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanon.