The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) looks at the humanitarian side of the World Food Programme in the Middle East.
The role of WFP role is to reach and feed the most food insecure people in the Middle East region, especially the children because they are the most vulnerable. We have running programmes in Sudan, Yemen, oPt (occupied Palestinian Territories), Iraq, Algeria, Syria, Iran, Jordan, and Egypt,” says Ashraf Hamouda, Senior Partnership & Business Development Manager, WFP.
Food Security and the region. How fundamental is the issue?
Food Security has really become the most current hot issue because it touches on the basic needs of individuals. Most of the instability and riots in the streets lately has been because of rising food prices. Governments are finding it more difficult to control costs, thus relying more on organisations such as WFP to support and aid its people.
The situation has become so volatile and politically sensitive that recently a rich country like Kuwait, has granted an emergency food aid package to each of its 1.1 million population worth around $4 billion in total.
How does this compare to global numbers?
Let me give you a wider perspective because the Middle East is part of the global Islamic community. Out of the current 50 Least Developed Countries (LDC’s) worldwide, 22 are Muslim countries.
WFP plays a major role in reducing poverty and hunger in 34 out of OIC’s 57 member states. in 2010, WFP planned beneficiaries in the Muslim world was more than 54 million representing more than half the total number WFP is assisting worldwide. The highest risk countries in our region are oPt, Sudan and Yemen.
As of the first quarter of 2011 WFP will suffer a severe shortfall of $29.2 million for emergency operations and $48.9 million for safety-net operations.
Unless further funding is received, WFP will be forced to reduce or suspend emergency operations and life-saving seasonal safety net activities, negatively impacting 300,000 IDPs, 98,000 refugees and 1.8 million severely food-insecure persons.
WFP supports the efforts of the humanitarian community to respond to the crisis in Sa’ada by facilitating the access of humanitarian personnel and light cargo to the affected areas through a Special Operation (SO).
The SO is dramatically under-funded by $400,000 for the next six months.
And that is the real picture.
What is Qatar’s role in this and sensitivity to the issue?
Qatar imports approximately 90% of its food. HH the Emir realising how pressing this issue is for his country on the long-term, as well as being faced with the realities of the harsh agriculture environment of the mostly barren Qatar, has set in motion a strategy that is both, viable as well as unifying. The initiative of engaging both the private & public sector in creating joint ventures in more agriculturally friendly countries such as Sudan, benefits all stakeholders because it shies away from the stigma of being considered as Neo Colonialist land grabbers. The Global Dry Land Alliance (see Box) is a commendable initiative focussed on bringing to light the food security issues we are facing in our part of the world. I believe it is still a long way to go before anything concrete can be felt, but it was long overdue. And of course they will have WFP’s support in all stages of its creation and development.
What is the way forward?
I believe the way forward is more cooperation between the private sector and governments in eradicating poverty and hunger. The rich countries must participate more actively in poorer countries, and there are ample examples of commercially viable food security projects benefitting all stakeholders: Poor land owners (higher incomes), Investors (profits), Governments (infrastructure), populations (available food at affordable prices)…this cycle must be globally unifying for all beneficiaries can truly feels its effect.
Oil-rich countries are acquiring land in poor and under-developed countries? Is this a sustainable way to go in food security? Isn’t this depleting the land resources of that country?
The issue is not about land grab it is about the fair sharing of the capital and the resources. We understand the need for rich countries with limited agricultural capabilities to seek out help from outside, and we also understand the poor countries’ limited funding to cultivate its land to develop their country and their people. But it should be done in such a way that the local communities are part of the decision making process since they are the main beneficiaries. However, most of the time, the local communities are not included in the loop.
© Qatar Today 2011