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WFP Chief to the Arab League: The actions we take now will determine our success, or failure, in stopping this health crisis from becoming a hunger pandemic

CAIRO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley said today that COVID-19 will push the number of food insecure people in the Arab world up by more than 14 million, taking the total to more than 50 million.

“Since the start of this pandemic, WFP has called on leaders around the world to act and many have stepped up – including members of the Arab League,” said Beasley, speaking at the opening session of the 106th Ministerial Session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the League of Arab States (LAS). “We need to work, hand in hand, towards the day when WFP is no longer needed in the Arab world.”

Beasley addressed the high-level meeting at a time when the global pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing crises of war, famine, economic collapse, and political unrest.  

“The League of Arab States highly appreciates its partnership with the WFP and the role that it plays in addressing the multiple emergency situations and challenges in the Arab region, which have also been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic,” said the League’s Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “We look forward to pursuing our cooperation with the WFP and advancing our shared goals, especially in areas afflicted by conflict, as well as towards the achievement of food security throughout the Arab world."

Some of WFP’s largest and most critical operations are in Yemen, Syria and Somalia, where more than 14.4 million people were assisted by WFP in July 2020. WFP is also providing assistance to nearly 1.5 million Syrian refugees across the region in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq as well as responding to Lebanon’s triple crisis of the recent port explosion, COVID-19, and the ongoing economic downturn.

“WFP frontline teams are going all-out to meet the new challenges thrown up by the Coronavirus. This challenge is bigger than any one nation or institution – and we are at a crossroads. We must act together, or fall together,” Beasley said.

The WFP chief urged national governments to invest in national social protection and safety net programs to help get families through the crisis.

Beasley said support from LAS members has enabled WFP to give new hope to people living  across the region and beyond. In recent years LAS member states have also stepped up to become important donors, providing vital support for the global movement to eradicate hunger. LAS member states donated US$531 million to WFP in 2018, and US$687 million in 2019 – providing more than 20 percent of all the funding WFP received for its operations in the region.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.


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Executive Director Health emergencies


For more information please contact (email address:

Reem Nada, WFP/Beirut,
Mob.: +20 106 6663 4522

Bettina Luescher WFP/ Berlin,
Mob. +49 160. 9926 1730

Elisabeth Byrs, WFP/ Geneva,
Mob. +41 79 842 8057

Jane Howard, WFP/ London,
Mob. +44 (0)796 8008 474

Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York,
Mob. + 1 929 289 9867

Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington,
Mob.  +1 202 770 5993