DUBAI: World Food Programme (WFP) officials on Sunday heaped praise on UAE efforts to help victims, while expressing worry about the humanitarian situation in Syria, Yemen and occupied Palestinian territories at a special media briefing held in Dubai.
The briefing follows a Global Management Meeting held by the WFP that brought together senior managers from 90 offices worldwide to Dubai this week. It is the first time in the Middle East that such a meeting has been held.
As the WFP ramps up its food assistance projects in Arab countries like Syria and Yemen, its Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, visited the agency's facilities at Dubai's International Humanitarian City (IHC), the largest humanitarian logistics hub worldwide.
With more than 40,000 sqm of space offered by IHC, WFP is the largest user of the Dubai-based logistics centre for UN agencies, the Red Crescent and Red Cross and other major NGOs that provide aid in both emergencies and for development to help the poor in less developed countries.
To a specific question from The Gulf Today, a top IHC official explained that the total WFP shipment value from Dubai depot from 2011 until date was Dhs32.5 million. This included Somalia (Dhs13 million, Yemen (Dhs3.5 million), Syria (Dhs4.5 million) and Pakistan (Dhs11.5 million).
Muhannad Hadi, WFP Country Director & Representative in Syria, noted that the WFP was reaching about 1.5 million people monthly in Syria with food assistance. “However, the escalation of violence is making it more difficult to reach the country's hardest-hit areas.”
As thousands of more Syrians pour into neighbouring countries, WFP is responding to cover the food needs of refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey with food distribution and innovative food vouchers. The food assistance reached over 1.4 million Syrians in the country's 14 Governorates during the month of October.
Pablo Recalde, WFP Country Director & Representative in the occupied Palestinian territories, said the WFP requires $2 million a month to maintain its vital support to vulnerable Palestinians.
Almost 1.7 million people live in the Gaza Strip, a highly dense urban area subject to a blockade that has been imposed since 2006. Food insecurity reportedly affects 44 per cent of households in the Gaza Strip.
“Gazans have been living under a blockade which virtually closes Gaza off to free trade, economic activity, jobs and makes them almost completely dependent on foreign assistance. By 2020, the population of Gaza will increase by half a million. That means in eight years Gaza will need 400 additional schools, 800 additional hospital beds,” he noted.
Lubna Alaman, WFP Country Director & Representative in Yemen, pointed out that the WFP scaled up its food assistance this year to reach 5.5 million people.
Child malnutrition rates in Yemen are among the highest in the world with close to half of Yemen's children under 5 years - 2 million children - stunted and one million acutely malnourished.
According to WFP officials, Yemen is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis with more than 10 million people - almost half the country's population - either hungry or on the edge of hunger.
WFP first started operating in Dubai in 2005 as a result of a $10 million grant from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and other private Dubai corporate sources.