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WFP and Arab League sign historic agreement for cooperation

CAIRO - The United Nations World Food Programme and the League of Arab States today signed their first Memorandum of Understanding for future cooperation.

The agreement underlines the common interests of the two organisations. In addition to exchanging information and expertise in different fields, both agencies will work together towards identifying problems and coordinating intervention relating to food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly among women and children.

WFP has already been providing significant amounts of food aid to member countries in the League. In Sudan, WFP is targeting over 2 million people, in Yemen 30,000 and in Egypt 500,000.

"This is an historic agreement between two important organisations both working to improve the status of food security in the Middle East," said Allan Jury, head of WFP's External Relations Division, following the signing ceremony in the League's headquarters in Cairo.

"Unfortunately, a number of hotspots in the world are today located in the Middle East and tragically affect the livelihoods of people living in the region. Our hope is that by working together we can alleviate their suffering. There is no doubt that the world will become more stable and secure if we can join forces to fight hunger, misery and injustice," added Jury.

The League, which came into being on 22 March 1945, is the oldest regional organisation in the world. Its mandate is to promote closer ties among its member states and economic development in the region.

WFP is the world largest humanitarian agency and in 2003 gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children. The agency currently has two major operations in the Middle East - in Iraq and in the Palestinian Territories. Last year, WFP carried out the biggest ever humanitarian operation - to feed the entire population of Iraq, some 26 million people.

A growing number of WFP donors are from Arab League countries. Algeria donated US$10 million last year, while Saudi Arabia contributed US$3.3 million and Kuwait US$1 million. Other donors from the Arab world include Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Qatar.

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