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Mahmoud Yassin joins fight against hunger

MAHMOUD YASSIN CHAMPIONING THE FIGHT AGAINST GLOBAL HUNGER IN ARAB TELEVISION SPOT

ROME - Mahmoud Yassin, one of the best-known Egyptian actors of all times, has lent his voice to a growing chorus of international celebrities who are helping the Inited Nations' World Food Programme raise awareness of global hunger.

The two public service announcements (PSAs) starring Yassin illustrate the potential lost when hunger ravages a community: "The woman who would have cured cancer died when she was three. She starved to death. The baby who could have grown to set Olympic records that would stand for generations never completed, because her mother was so underfed, she was never born," says Yassin.

Several international and national broadcasters of Arabic programming have already agreed to air the advertisement over the coming weeks.

WFP, the largest humanitarian organisation in the world, plays a crucial role in reducing poverty and hunger around the globe. Last year, the agency fed more than 100 million people in 81 countries, including the entire population of Iraq. In fact, some 57 million people - representing more than half the total number of WFP beneficiaries in 2003 - were in countries belonging to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

But according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, despite early gains in reducing hunger in the 1990s, the number of hungry people actually grew by 18 million in the last half of the decade. The World Health Organization cites hunger and malnutrition as the number one risk to world health; it kills more people each year than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined. Yet, global food aid has declined by almost 30 percent in the last five years, from 15 million tons in 1999 to 10 million tons in 2003.

This is the first time that a star of Egyptian and Arabic movies has collaborated with WFP, and represents the first PSA in Arabic produced by the agency. Other celebrities supporting WFP include: Hollywood legend Sean Connery; Grammy Award-winning, Cape Verdian singer Cesaria Evora; French actor Jacques Perrin; marathon world record holder and former WFP school feeding beneficiary Paul Tergat, among others.

"Ending hunger is the key to opening the way for hundreds of millions of people to grow and develop to their full potential," says Yassin. "The hungry children, women and elderly must know and feel that the rest of the world has not forgotten them, not only through contributions, but also by knowing that there are people who will carry their voices to the world and speak on their behalf."

For more information on WFP's global operations, please visit www.wfp.org.

Note to Editors: the video is available for broadcast worldwide. Contact video producer Jonathan Dumont for a copy at Jonathan.Dumont@wfp.org. A high resolution version of the PSA can be reviewed in the Newsroom of the WFP website (www.wfp.org).

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

For more information please contact:

Brenda Barton
WFP/Rome
Tel. +39-06-65132602

Mia Turner
WFP/Cairo
Tel. +202-7544045 ext 287

Christiane Berthiaume
WFP/Geneva
Tel. +41-22-9178564

Trevor Rowe
WFP/NY
Tel. +1-212-9635196