Expo 2020's World Food Day: The future of food in the MENA region is in our hands

Hunger in the MENA region has been rising since 2014


DUBAI – An inclusive and collaborative approach to our food systems is necessary to achieve better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, Dr Abdulhakim Rajab Elwaer, Assistant Director-General, Regional Representative for Near East and North Africa, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Saturday, World Food Day. 

Dr Abdulhakim was speaking at Expo 2020 Dubai’s World Food Day programme, held in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) and FAO, where the UAE signed a number of strategic partnerships to promote world food security, strengthen food systems and contribute to eliminating hunger worldwide promote sustainable food systems.

These included a letter of intent between MOCCAE, FAO and Emirates Nature-WWF to promote health diets from sustainable food systems as a means to benefit the community, preserve the environment and boost the national economy.

Dr Abdulhakim said that after a “challenging” year, strengthening partnerships and coordinated action, including programmes and capacity development efforts, would help sustain the people and planet for future generations. 

“As we observe World Food Day, this year has been different and challenging. This is due to three reasons: climate change, calamities and conflicts,” he said.

“Hunger in the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region has been rising since 2014. The number of malnourished people reached 69 million in 2020 – a 91 per cent increase in two decades. And COVID-19 has provided another shock. The number of undernourished people rose by 4.8 million. It’s estimated that 32 per cent of the population did not have regular access to sufficient and nutritious food.”

The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is focused on cooperation and partnerships, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A paradigm shift and work towards transformative partnerships and international development cooperation is essential.

“The solution lies in an inclusive approach to international cooperation. States, international organisations, civil society, the private sector, all relevant non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders should promote the strengthening of partnerships and coordinated action, including programmes and capacity development efforts to create effectiveness, sustainability and synergies,” said Dr Elwaer.

The UAE and FAO also signed the Hand-in-Hand Zimbabwe-Smallholder Horticulture Recovery and Inclusion Project [SHRIP] and renewed the Credit Fund for the Sub-Regional Coordinator for the GCC and Yemen.

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