World must tackle hunger to end poverty, says Princess Haya

Some 805 million people around the world still don’t have enough to eat, says Dubai's Princess Haya bint Al Hussein

The world must redouble its efforts to solve the root causes of poverty and foster opportunity in poorer economies, a humanitarian summit in Dubai heard Tuesday.

Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, UN Messenger of Peace and wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said despite progress made towards a UN goal to halve the number of people suffering from hunger between 1990 and 2015, some 805 million people around the world still don’t have enough to eat.

“We live with this disgrace, and we need to work harder to end it,” she said, noting that improving nutrition is critical for supporting wider economic growth. “The first obstacle to opportunity is malnutrition, and the poor health that accompanies it. If a child is badly malnourished, the game is over before it has begun.”

Princess Haya, a former ambassador for the UN’s World Food Programme, was addressing the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development (DIHAD) conference. Experts representing global NGOs and other relief agencies attended the event, to discuss the complexities of delivering aid across multiple humanitarian crises in the Middle East and Africa, amid surging refugee numbers.

“Last year I visited refugee camps in Ethiopia,” Princess Haya said. “The situation was shocking. Ninety five per cent of refugees were women and children and many struggled across the border, on the edge of starvation. For them, there was no opportunity, no mobility and no sustainability.”

“It is an extreme example, but poor societies share many of these dilemmas,” she added. “People are trapped. DIHAD is about finding solutions to help the world’s poor."

The UAE is among the world’s largest foreign aid donors, contributing $5.4bn to poorer nations in 2013 and bypassing the UN recommended target of giving 0.7 per cent of income.

But generosity is only part of the equation needed to enable opportunity in developing nations, said Sheikh Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of International Cooperation and Development.

“We need generosity, plus impact,” she said. “Each dirham of UAE aid needs to achieve maximum impact. The more effective our aid, the more lives are saved and improved.”

The number of new people forced to flee violence around the globe rose to an estimated 5.5 million during the first half of 2014, as large areas of the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere suffered war and conflict, according to data from the UN refugee agency. Syrians, for the first time, became the biggest refugee community under the agency's mandate, excluding Palestinians.

Now in its fifth year, the conflict in Syria has forced 3.8 million people to take refuge in neighbouring countries – Jordan and Lebanon – and left 12 million others internally in need of humanitarian assistance.