What can Dhs1 buy you in Dubai? Probably not an awful lot: a bottle of water or a packet of chewing gum, perhaps. What about Dhs5? A couple of bananas, a packet of biscuits or a bottle of milk, depending on the supermarket you’re in. Dhs200 will get you at least a meal for two in a decent restaurant (without alcoholic beverages, of course).
Now let’s put that into perspective. A Dhs1 donation to the World Food Programme (WFP) – a United Nations organisation that aims to save lives and prevent global hunger through food aid and assistance – can provide a nutritious school meal for a child. Dhs5 can feed one underprivileged schoolchild for an entire week. Dhs200 can feed that child for an entire year, and send them home with monthly food rations for their whole family. It is thought that a billion people around the world go to bed hungry each night, while a third of all deaths in children under the age of five in developing countries is linked to a lack of food.
When we meet the WFP’s Dubai-based partnership and business development manager Elise Dijon and regional head of partnership Ashraf Hamouda for the first time, we’re already calculating the number of meals the cost of our Americano could have provided if we’d donated the money through the WFP website.
The duo, based near the new Dubai World Central development, explain that our city is the global hub for food aid distribution; we wonder how we hadn’t realised this sooner. WFP’s operations can be split into two categories: emergency response, concentrating on events such as the crisis in the Horn of Africa, which has been suffering severe food shortages for months; and development programmes, which cover education, health, agriculture, employment and women’s empowerment.
Over the past few years, the WFP has been able to streamline its operations around the world to take over parts of the operation that may normally require a middle man, allowing the organisation to get a far greater percentage of donations directly to where they’re needed, and allowing the people running things to know exactly what is becoming of their efforts.
If you want to see what impact your donation could have, however big or small, there’s an online tool to help you (www.wefeedback.org) that will calculate the impact the cost of your favourite food could have, and offers you the option to donate it. Why not find out how far your morning cup of coffee can go? Make a donation at www.wfp.org/donate.
Emergency response Yemen According to the WFP’s Elise Bijon, one of the main food crises taking place at the moment is happening right next door to us, in Yemen. She says action desperately needs to be taken now. Ashraf Hamouda claims the situation in the country is similar to that of the Horn of Africa this time last year, and says the capital city of Sana’a is experiencing a severe water crisis.
In Yemen, almost five million people – 22 per cent of the population – are unable to produce or buy the food they need, as a result of conflict and rising food prices, which has seen chronic malnutrition among children become increasingly widespread. The WFP has already increased its humanitarian assistance in the country since the start of 2012, prioritising 1.8 million severely affected Yemenis, many of them women and children, living in the poorest areas.
Development programme School meals Bijon believes the WFP’s school meals programme is ‘a perfect illustration of what we do to prevent hunger in the long run, by empowering the next generations through enhanced access to education and health’. Put simply, the WFP offers regular nutritious meals to more than 20 million children in approximately 60 countries in the world’s most deprived areas every year, giving parents an incentive to send their children to school (by offloading the financial burden of feeding them) and offering an incentive to the children themselves to stay in school. Hamouda explains that by giving these children an education, their earning power improves, and the level of poverty in an area can decline as they become more self sufficient and less reliant on aid. There is a minimum attendance quota to be met by the kids, of course, and in situations where parents need their children to work, the WFP provides rations to the family, alleviating enough financial strain so that the parents won’t keep their offspring out of school.