Saudi donation closes WFP funding gap

Saudi Arabia has donated US$500 million to the World Food Programme (WFP), enabling the UN agency to close the gap on its funding appeal.

[Read this report in Arabic]

"It [the donation] came at the right time and in the right place … This is a great case of how working together can allow the international community to address critical developmental and humanitarian problems. The Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] has set an incredible example that I hope all countries will follow, especially in the Middle East, and will bring new donors to the multilateral effort," Abdul Aziz Muhammad Arrukban, special humanitarian envoy of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told IRIN from Riyadh on 28 May.

"I look forward to seeing the Kingdom and all GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries becoming an integral part of the global, multilateral work and taking the lead among the donor group", Arrukban said.

WFP announced on 23 May that it had met its extraordinary call for $755 million to compensate for the increased costs of food and fuel with a $500 million donation from Saudi Arabia.

Thirty-one countries have donated a collective $460 million to the $755 million appeal, plus the Saudi donation, WFP said in a statement.

That leaves an additional U$214 million available for other urgent hunger needs. Six months into the year, WFP's budget to feed millions of people in 2008 stands at $4.5 billion, of which $2 billion has been received (including the recent Saudi pledge), WFP said.

"Saudi Arabia has been a donor to WFP for a long time. In 2005 and 2006, they donated close to 60 million [US dollars] to WFP," Arrukban said.

As of 25 May, Saudi Arabia is the second largest WFP donor after the US. Washington has contributed $566,810,885 so far this year.

WFP's Executive Director Josette Sheeran has said the money will not only offset food and fuel costs, but will secure much-needed food for programmes throughout Africa and other parts of the world. In particular, WFP will be able to continue providing food for millions of children enrolled in school and therapeutic feeding programmes in Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia and Somalia and in many other critical hunger zones.

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