100 Million Meals: Every Dh1 can make a difference

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Dubai - How your donations to the 100 Million Meals campaign are changing lives worldwide

By Saman Haziq

Published: Fri 23 Apr 2021, 11:27 PM

Last updated: Fri 23 Apr 2021, 11:28 PM

As we speak, more than 100 million meals are now moving across borders, spreading hope and joy among refugees, orphans, widows and families in 30 countries around the globe. All thanks to your generous donations to the region’s largest food drive. With every Dh1 donated to the 100 Million Meals campaign is one meal to someone in need.

The drive, however, is not just about feeding the hungry — it’s also about giving the less fortunate a chance to live a dignified life, according to the people behind the campaign, which is run by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI).

Instead of converting donations into cooked meals delivered to needy households, the campaign is handing out care packages stuffed with foodstuff and cooking essentials enough to last a month. This way, people are empowered to cook and prepare their own hearty meals throughout Ramadan, said Sara Al Nuaimi, director of the MBRGI Office.

“Food packages include flour, rice, lentils, sugar, oil, dates and tea. Every food parcel is enough to feed a family for a month and is equivalent to around 300 meals. If you do the math, the cost of one meal comes down to just Dh1. The idea was to make every dirham one donates count,” Al Nuaimi told Khaleej Times.

Part of the proceeds also goes to ‘food vouchers’ under the UN World Food Programme (WFP), a strategic partner in the initiative.

Mageed Abdel Yahia, WFP country director in the UAE and a representative of the GCC region, said they use the funds to load credit in the vouchers they give to the needy.

“With the vouchers, beneficiaries can go to the supermarkets (we have a contract with) and buy whatever they require. This way, they get the freedom to choose what they want to eat. Secondly, handing the needy food vouchers also preserves their dignity as they can go to the supermarket and shop like any other customer. Another advantage of giving food coupons is that we are injecting money into the local economy, giving it a much-needed boost in these tough times,” Yahia said.

The 100 Million Meals drive is helping fund the WFP’s operations in Jordan, Palestine and Bangladesh.

“In Jordan, we provide food assistance to half a million Syrian refugees; over 200,000 of whom are in refugee camps. We are also providing food assistance to the Rohingyas in Bangladesh and also in Palestine, to people affected by the economic slowdown and are unable to make ends meet,” Yahia said.

In allowing people to shop for their own needs, the WFP also makes safety a priority by using advanced technologies. “At supermarkets, they are recognised by their biometrics that can help the shopkeepers check and verify if they are really needy and are registered under the WFP.

“In Jordan, the needy registered with the WFP can simply walk into a supermarket, do their shopping, and while checking out just scan their iris and their shopping cost will be taken care of. At other camps, only the fingerprints can help identify them as they shop what they need. Also, we are using blockchain technology in Bangladesh and Jordan to assist the needy. The WFP is informed of any transaction, so we can see what they bought, how much quantity, and for how much,” the official said.

The WFP was able to reach and provide assistance to 115 million less fortunate people globally last year. In 2021, this number went up to 136 million, Yahia said, emphasising that any donation at this time is of great value.

The 100 Million Meals campaign is essentially an expansion of last year’s ‘10 Million Meals’ drive that benefitted Covid-hit communities across the UAE. Al Nuaimi said: “After the success of that drive, we realised that there are still many countries reeling under the burden of the pandemic, so we thought it was best to extend our reach to them this year and reach out to more people in need.”

The drive comes at a time when around 34 million people are on the verge of famine, Yahia said.

“We needed to move faster to reach them. Any effort to help in that direction would make a big difference. In the 100 Million Meals drive, the novel concept of ‘every dirham donated can make a difference’ has encouraged people from all segments of the society to donate whatever they can, especially during the month of Ramadan. More people have come out in big numbers to donate,” the WFP official added.

“Majority of beneficiaries are Muslims and are observing fasts, so this drive has not only provided them proper meals but also preserved their dignity as they do not have to beg for food.”


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