UAE campaign delivers 216 million meals to people in need

The government-led fundraising drive smashed its target, thanks to generous donations from local philanthropists and private corporations.

Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in 30 countries have received lifeline food parcels and grocery vouchers, thanks to the UAE’s 100 Million Meals campaign. The Ramadan initiative raised $59m – more than double its original target of $27m (Dhs 100m) – following the generosity of local philanthropists and private corporations.

A high-profile auction featuring works from artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso also contributed to the total figure. 

The campaign, organised by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI), distributed the bulk of the proceeds from the month-long fundraiser to local food banks and frontline aid groups.

These organisations then delivered food boxes containing basic items such as rice, flour, oil, and sugar to the doorstep of those most in need to sustain them for a month.

Within the UAE, some 112,000 food parcels valued at $3.6m were given out via the UAE Food Bank’s distribution network. Each parcel holds 42kg of basic food items and can feed one person for 30 days.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) also received more than $7m from the drive to support its e-voucher programmes in Jordan, Palestine and Bangladesh.

The agency used the money to provide families in Jordan, Palestine and Bangladesh with vouchers exchangeable at local shops and markets, giving people the option to choose their own items while also helping to inject funds back into the local economies.

Some 36,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and more than 52,000 Syrians living in Jordan’s Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps benefited from the scheme. The funding helped the WFP maintain its food distribution at a time when pipeline breaks were looming.

In Palestine, WFP was originally allocated equivalent to 9 million meals through e-vouchers, but this was increased to 28 million, in response to the violence which flared there in May causing wide-scale damage and displacement.

Abdel Mageed Yahia, GCC representative for WFP, described the 100 Million Meals campaign as “a vivid example of how communities come together in solidarity and exceed expectations”.

He added: “In a time when hunger is threatening the lives of millions around the world, [the funding] helped WFP secure the continuous supply of critical food assistance for highly vulnerable and food insecure families.”

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In Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar, Rohingya refugees spend e-vouchers provided by WFP with support from the UAE's 100 Million Meals campaign. Credit: WFP

We want to change people’s status, so that they go from being dependent on food aid, to self-sustaining. That is our goal.”


Moez El Shohdi, co-founder of the Egyptian Food Bank and CEO of the Food Banking Regional Network (FBRN), which partnered with MBRGI on food distribution, said the initiative had been “very successful” and had reached more people, in more countries than expected.

“There was a very positive response to the campaign in the UAE. We feel this could be a good guideline for other countries in the GCC, like Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, to try similar approaches,” he told Philanthropy Age.

El Shohdi said the next step was to address root causes of food shortages, as well as tackling food waste and helping people generate their own incomes.

“We are talking with MBRGI about some new initiatives around school feeding programmes as well as some income-generating schemes, and we hope to announce these soon,” he said. “We want to change people’s status, so that they go from being dependent on food aid, to self-sustaining. That is our goal.”

The 100 Million Meals campaign was 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.

Beneficiary countries included: Palestine, Lebanon, Sudan, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Angola, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Burundi, Benin, Brazil, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The initiative comes as the number of people facing acute food insecurity and needing urgent life and livelihood-saving assistance has hit a five-year high in many countries. According to a report published in late July by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC), a toxic combination of conflict, economic shocks, the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather conditions pushed some 155 million people into acute food insecurity in 2020. - PA