Confronting the “biggest food security crisis” in modern history requires $23 billion to help around 150 million people in 2023, revealed an official at the UN’s food assistance organization, the World Food Program (WFP).
Corinne Fleischer, regional director for the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Eastern Europe for the WFP, affirmed that her organization had succeeded in helping 158 million people in 2022.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Fleischer reminded that Saudi Arabia ranks fifth on the list of the five largest WFP donors in the region, noting that the organization relies on the Kingdom’s continuous support to achieve its goals inside and outside the region.
As for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal allowing the export of Ukrainian grain over the Black Sea, Fleischer revealed that it had facilitated the shipping of more than 23 million tons of food products in eight months.
Furthermore, she warned that the conflict in Ukraine had disrupted the global food and energy markets and led to a rise in food and fuel prices, exposing millions to hunger.
Historic Relations with Saudi Arabia
The WFP’s partnership with Saudi Arabia dates to more than 45 years ago, revealed Fleischer, adding that the Kingdom had offered the program a steeply generous grant of $500 million in 2008. This donation enabled the WFP to complete its relief projects, and to provide food for millions of hungry people affected by high food prices.
“In 2014, the Kingdom contributed more than $200 million to provide food for displaced families in Iraq, Syrian refugees in countries neighboring Syria, as well as refugees from South Sudan and Somalia,” Fleischer told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Saudi Arabia ranked fifth on the list of the five largest donors to the WFP in the region for the years 2018-2019, and we always count on its continuous support to help the program achieve its goals inside and outside the region,” she added.
Black Sea Grain Initiative
Fleischer confirmed that the Black Sea Grain Initiative opened a humanitarian sea corridor for the export of Ukrainian grains.
The agreement played a pivotal role in the global response to combat hunger, she noted.
“A real solution to the global food crisis cannot be reached unless we can fully benefit from Ukrainian grain, Russian food and fertilizers,” said Fleischer.
“Since the signing of the Black Sea Initiative in Istanbul on July 22, the Joint Coordination Center – which includes representatives from Russia, Türkiye, Ukraine and the UN – has facilitated the shipping of more than 23 million tons of foodstuffs until March 8, 2023,” she added.
Food Prices Jump 15%
According to Fleischer, the conflict in Ukraine has triggered turmoil in global food and energy markets, rocketed food and fuel prices and put millions at risk of starvation.
Many families are unable to afford basic meals, stressed the WFP regional director.
Noting that food prices had stabilized in 2022 at the same rates recorded during the food crises of 2008 and 2011, Fleischer argues that the world was more stable in 2008 than it is today.
“We are witnessing the outbreak of many conflicts in Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria and Nigeria since 2009,” she explained.
Addressing Food Security Crisis Requires $23 Bln
Fleischer sounded the alarm regarding food security in the world, adding that the WFP is facing the greatest crisis in modern times.
The WFP needs $ 23 billion to help 149.6 million people around the world in 2023, she stressed.
Last year, the WFP and its partners provided food, nutrition, and cash assistance to a record number of people, estimated at 158 million people. This was based on record-breaking contributions amounting to $ 14 billion.
“The WFP succeeded in averting widespread famine, unrest and mass migration on a large scale,” claimed Fleischer, adding that the UN organization had transported Ukrainian grain to needy countries, facilitated the transportation of fertilizers, and prevented famine in some areas of Yemen.