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End the conflicts and Feed our Future

Syrian refugees make their voices heard on the big screen
, Paul Anthem
A powerful cinema ad seeks to highlight the terrible price the world pays every time a child is lost to hunger.

One by one, each child disappears. Slowly the choir of voices diminishes.

All that remains is a ruined, war-torn landscape, one girl singing atop a slab of concrete: "It always ends up to one thing…When I look and you're not there."

Then one stark fact appears on screen: Every year, 3 million children die of hunger.

In just over 60 seconds, a film seeks to portray the terrible price the world pays in lost potential every time a child is lost to hunger.

Conflict and hunger

The message was never more pertinent, with conflict and hunger fuelling one another across multiple countries, from Yemen to South Sudan, Syria to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Children are among the principal casualties.

Cinema audiences in more than 30 countries will see the advertisement from 26 September. They will also be invited to lend their support to the World Food Programme (WFP) and its Feed our Future campaign, as part of its efforts to save as well as change children's lives.

What may not be immediately clear is that each of the ten boys and girls on screen is a Syrian refugee, growing up far from the places they once called home.

The children were selected from a choir that brings together refugees and host communities. Each one helps to represent the millions of children who suffer from hunger as a result of violence and conflict every year.

Music connects us all

Some of the children's families were already receiving cash transfers from WFP to pay for food.

Among them was Abeer Meselmani: "When we left Syria we lost a lot of things," she explained. "We lost our relatives, we lost people we love, and our homes and land…everything." Another, Wedad Al Abib, said: "I wish I could go back to our home in Aleppo and see my neighbours again."

Children rehearse their singing for a new cinema advertisement.

The children learned the original-language version of the song How can I tell you by Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens over several weeks, under the guidance of award-winning music director Esmeralda Conde Ruiz.

"We had this idea to create the choir out of Syrian refugee children," she explains. "It's just wonderful to see how food can connect us all, with no language at all. It's going to stay with me for a very long time."

WFP assistance is targeted primarily at 52.2 million children, who accounted for 62 percent of total beneficiaries in 2018. Its support to children includes fortified nutrition products and school meals programmes.

WFP worked with Sir John Hegarty of The Garage SOHO to make the film, the second time they have collaborated under the Feed our Future campaign.

Last year's advertisement helped to double awareness of WFP among viewers and raised more than half a million dollars through online giving and through a 38 percent increase in downloads of the agency's Share the Meal App. A donation can be made here.

Corinne Woods, Chief Marketing Officer at WFP, said: "We think that this year's campaign is even more emotionally engaging and we expect more people will respond to our call."

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cinema advertisement.

The Feed our Future campaign is part of a unique partnership between SAWA, the Global Cinema Advertising Association, its network of Global Cinema Advertising companies and WFP, which is the leading humanitarian agency supporting development and responding to hunger needs in global hotspots.

See also: Cinema proves effective weapon against world hunger.