WFP Panel Discussion
The Quest to Zero Hunger, hosted by AUSMUN, was a fruitful event full of education and inspiration. The interactive panel was moderated by Julia Jose, Director of Research, and featured esteemed guests Ms. Nehal Hegazy, External Partnerships Officer for the GCC division of World Food Program (WFP) and Ms. Zeina Habib, Head of Communications of GCC division of the WFP.
On the agenda for the panel were topics such as the WFP’s win of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, the efforts made during the COVID-19 pandemic, the progress made on SDG 2 and SDG 17, and youth involvement. The topics were discussed by the guest speakers with great enthusiasm, who shared their expertise while fielding questions from the audience.
The event kicked off with Ms. Nehal highlighting the link between food security and conflict. By seeking to satisfy the needs of people through working with local supermarkets and providing emergency aid, the WFP helps to reduce the likelihood of conflict - a role recognized in their win of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. Ms. Zeina pointed out that while this was an important role, it was not the only role of the WFP. The WFP puts in place development programs like provision of school meals which encourages parents to send their children to school due to the free meals being provided. The WFP also provides monthly food rations for families, given that children go to school consistently. Enrollment in school brings about better health and better awareness, while also enabling children to break the vicious cycle of poverty in the family or community.
The WFP also provides food for work and food for training programs, often in collaboration with local markets to help a community rebuild itself independently. This fulfills the goals of economic growth and availability of nutritious food at the same time.
Following this, Ms. Nehal proceeded to discuss the WFP mandate: “We want to save lives and change lives”, she said. While the WFP has continued to make admirable efforts in curbing world hunger, the unfortunate reality of the situation is that the program is currently not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 due to the growing number of beneficiaries. Nevertheless, the WFP continues to provide exceptional disaster relief, including via food provision, communication, and logistics.
The WFP is a voluntarily funded organization and achieves various goals with collaboration and partnerships, both with private institutions and governments. The UAE has always been one of the first countries to help the WFP at the onset of any emergency. The UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai, UAE is the largest UN depot. These depots are fundamental as they help dispatch emergency help to affected sites in case of crisis. Even during the times of COVID-19, the UAE immediately provided aircraft to the WFP to distribute essential supplies.
In the discussion of the impact of COVID-19 on food security, the speakers highlighted that it has been negatively affected. The biggest impact of the pandemic was the economic ramifications of the lockdowns, which caused many people to have unstable access to food. Furthermore, Ms. Nehal explained that the millions of people suffering from malnutrition are also at greater peril should they be infected with COVID-19, creating further necessity for proper nutrition. While the growing number of people in need has made it difficult, the WFP has continued to work tirelessly to overcome this issue.
With regards to youth involvement, the WFP has launched many campaigns to bring awareness to the issues it aims to solve. Through the media, they were able to launch campaigns with wide reach, such as the Stop the Waste campaign. The campaign promoted individual action in terms of waste management, highlighting that even the simplest of actions can make a big difference. The speakers also brought attention to different apps such as Freerice and Share the Meal, which are further examples of simple actions with great impact.
The panel closed with encouraging remarks from the speakers about the power of the youth in its advocacy. The speakers shared the empowering story of AUS alumna Claude Kanakri, who went from an intern to doing great, life-changing work with the WFP. In the words of Ms. Nehal, “You, ladies and gentlemen, are our hope for the future”. On that note, the audience was left with a sense of hopeful optimism, inspired to make a difference in the world.