Art auction boosts 100 Million Meals campaign

More than $37m raised in less than two weeks after donors dig deep to support initiative sending food aid to 30 countries during Ramadan.

Nearly $10m was raised in the space of a few hours at a charity auction in support of the UAE’s 100 Million Meals campaign - the first and largest of its kind in the Arab region, which aims to deliver food aid to 30 countries during Ramadan.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were pledged for pieces by world famous artists such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali. But the biggest ticket item was a painting by UAE-based Sacha Jafri, which sold for $4.2m.

Clothes worn by Jafri while creating his Guinness World Record-beating giant canvas, The Journey of Humanity, which recently raised $62m for education NGO Dubai Cares, generated a further $450,000. 

Meanwhile, a piece of gold and silver embroidery from the Kiswa, the cloth used to cover the Kaaba at the heart of the holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia, which was donated by Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was bought for $2.7m by an anonymous bidder.

The proceeds of the auction will be donated to the 100 Million Meals campaign. Launched at the start of Ramadan by UAE nonprofit Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI), it set out to raise $27m (AED100m) to pay for the equivalent of 100 million meals in 20 countries across the Middle East and Africa during the holy month.

The campaign is an extension of the 10 Million Meals initiative, which was launched in Ramadan last year. Its aim then was to support people in the UAE who had lost their incomes due to the Covid-19 pandemic and who were unable to break their fast at free community iftars due to restrictions on social gatherings.

In the first week of this year’s appeal, more than $21.2m was collected, prompting organisers to announce the campaign would expand to a further 10 countries, including Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Brazil. 

The campaign then went on to reach its $27m target within just 10 days, thanks to more than 185,000 individual and corporate donations. With the proceeds from the auction, the total amount raised at the time of writing exceeds $37m.

Dubai-based beauty influencer Huda Kattan was among the high-profile donors, with a gift of $272,000.

"It's hard to believe that in today's world, in 2021, we're still dealing with huge issues of hunger and malnutrition and that every 10 seconds, a child dies because of hunger,” multi-millionaire Kattan told fans in a video posted on social media.

Several other Hollywood stars and international sporting figures – including Will Smith, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eva Longoria, Roger Federer, Boris Becker, and Amir Khan – backed the fundraising effort, by donating or signing items for the auction.

UAE corporates also gave generously. Among the leading donors were Dubai Electricity and Water Authority ($5.4m); Al Rostamani Group ($2.7m); Emirates Islamic Bank, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), and Sankari Investment Group (all $1.3m).

100 Million Meals: notable donations

UAE-based philanthropists, charities, and corporations who have made significant pledges to the appeal include:

  • Dubai Electricity and Water Authority: $5.4m
  • Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment: $5.4m
  • Dar Al Ber Society: $5.4m
  • Al Rostamani Group: $2.7m
  • Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA): $1.3m
  • Emirates Islamic Bank: $1.3m
  • Sankari Investment Group: $1.3m
  • Dubai Duty Free: $816,775
  • Yusuff Ali M.A, Lulu Group chairman: $272,000
  • Mohamed & Obaid Al Mulla Group: $272,000
  • Hussain Sajwani-DAMAC Foundation: $272,000
  • Al Ansari Exchange: $272,000
  • Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB): A$272,000
  • Fazaa Initiative, the Social Security Fund for the Employees of Ministry of Interior:  $272,000
  • Huda Kattan: $272,000
  • Abdul Rahim Mohammed Belghozooz Al Zarooni: $272,000
  • Shamsheer Vayalil, VPS Healthcare chairman: $272,000
  • Waleed El Zoubi, chairman, Tiger Group: $272,000

Thanks to the additional boost from the auction, which is continuing to accept online bids for some items until the end of April, the total amount raised could be as much as double the original $27m (AED100m) target.

Mohammed Souhil Al Muhairi, executive director of the Dar Al Ber Society, a government-backed nonprofit which has also donated $5.4m to the campaign, said the initiative “embodied the UAE’s commitment to its core values of giving” and that the country’s leadership “has paved the way for an effective and sustainable implementation of philanthropy”.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment, which has itself given $5.4m, is overseeing the food distribution, in partnership with the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), the Food Banking Regional Network (FBRN), and other organisations in the region.

In some countries, families are receiving pre-packed food parcels containing basic items such as rice, oil, beans, and flour, along with sanitary items to protect them against Covid-19, including masks and soap. Elsewhere, people will be given cash or vouchers to buy their own food.

As one of the implementing partners, WFP has been allocated $5m to support 200,000 people across Jordan, Bangladesh, and Palestine.

“This campaign is really coming at the right time,” Abdel Mageed Yahia, GCC representative for WFP told Philanthropy Age.

Describing the funding as a “lifeline”, he said: “We had been struggling, especially in Jordan, and we were due to cut rations owing to funding gaps, which really would have been a disaster during the month of Ramadan.”

Yahia said the $5m would pay for food vouchers for Syrian refugees living inside camps in Jordan for a month, as well as vouchers for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and impoverished Palestinians in the West Bank for two months.

"This is not just extra funding, this is very significant extra funding."

Moez El Shohdi, CEO, Food Banking Regional Network. 

Egyptian philanthropist Moez El Shohdi, a co-founder of the Egyptian Food Bank and initiator of the FBRN, which will receive $12m to spend in 13 countries, also welcomed the UAE’s initiative.

“This is not just extra funding, this is very significant extra funding,” he said.  “It’s a very important boost to receive this during the month of Ramadan, but we really want to continue after Ramadan, and I hope we can expand to more countries as well.

El Shohdi said the Dubai-based FBRN, which now spans 30 countries since its launch in 2013, had signed a one-year agreement with the MBRGI. This would go beyond delivering just food aid, he said, and include capacity building, training, and education, as well as the other pillars of the FBRN such as volunteering, NGO partnering, sustainable investment, and reduction of food waste.

“We must feed people during Ramadan,” El Shohdi explained. “But after that, we need to help them get opportunities to make their own income so they can build better lives for themselves.” - PA