The statement issued by the World Food Program in November 2021 raised concern about the reality of hunger in the Arab region and the challenges imposed on those suffering from starvation, which puts more pressure on governments, civil societies, and NGOs to search for the causes of hunger and ways to address this crisis in the region. It brought up the question:
“Can people die of hunger?”
This question was the opening remark of "Dunyana"'s episode on Wednesday, December 15th,2021, broadcasted on BBC. Eng. Zuayter, APN Chairman of the Board, was hosted along with Abeer Etefa, the spokesperson for the World Food Program (WFP) in the Middle East and North Africa, and Basheer Omar, the spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross. The session was moderated by Malak Souid, a Syrian researcher and critic, and Lebanese actress Anjo Rihane.
By comparing the Arab Region's past and present, Eng. Zuayter stated that hunger was not a main priority before 2010, where society was interconnected, she also considered that the main cause of reaching this difficult state of hunger was due to wars and conflicts in the region, whether internally within countries or by occupation.
Eng. Zuayter stated that United Nations reports issued by UNICEF indicate that there are currently 60 million starving people, and that the number is expected to rise to reach 75 million in the next eight years. Especially with the weak political will to stop these percentages from increasing, and the matter is made worse by the fact that the Arab region is the largest importer of food in the world.
Regarding the Palestinian reality, Eng. Zuayter mentioned that the rate of food insecurity reaches 32% on an overall level, and 68% in Gaza in particular, which means that there is a systematic war being waged by the occupation against the Palestinians to keep them in a state of constant hunger.
Eng. Zuayter added that “Food is used as a weapon, to dominate and weaken societies.”. This is strongly demonstrated by the numbers in both Yemen and Palestine, for example, the recent war on Gaza contributed to the death of one million chickens, the destruction of 20% of bee wealth, and the destruction of 25% of the cultivated land.
With a question directed towards WFP’s spokesperson about its role in finding radical solutions to the causes of hunger, such as holding the war-causing countries responsible outside their borders and holding them accountable, Eng. Zuayter considered that the United Nations was deficient in its work by focusing only on humanitarian relief and leaving out development, peace and finding solutions that could eliminate the causes of hunger.
Eng. Zuayter concluded by saying “We, as a civil society movement, seek to achieve the concept of sovereignty over food, through food production in the Arab world, far from the funders that aim to prevent this in order to influence political decisions.” She also called for Arab integration strategies to be set up to win the war on hunger.
To watch the full episode, click on the link https://youtu.be/Zw5kS9lpqVE