Renowned Arab actress Hend Sabry resigns as Goodwill Ambassador for WFP over its failure to mobilize against starvation in Gaza

Ahram Online , Wednesday 22 Nov 2023

Renowned Tunisian-Egyptian actress Hend Sabry resigned from the World Food Programme on Wednesday citing the program's failure to effectively mobilize against the Israeli policy of cutting off all food for Palestinians in Gaza amid its relentless bombardment of the strip for over 46 days.

Hind Sabry


"After 13 years of humanitarian work around the world, I resigned from the World Food Programme," Sabry, 44, wrote in a post on her social media accounts.

"I write this with a heavy heart and deep sadness; I have decided to relinquish my role as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme, a role that I have been proud of and have been playing for years."

Sabry, an award-winning film and TV actress, worked with in-need populations in Sudan, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Libya among other countries over her years as a Goodwill Ambassador for the WFP.

The 2.4 million population in The Gaza Strip has been teetering on the verge of starvation due to the all-out blockade imposed by Israel on the entry of all but a trickle of the water, food, and fuel needed by under-bombardment Palestinians since the start of Israel's war on the strip on 7 October.

Various international humanitarian organizations have repeatedly condemned the Israeli bombing of Gaza, which has killed more than 14,000 civilians and injured more than 32,000 others, and its deadly blockade on the strip.

Sabry's resignation comes a few days after Cindy McCain, the WFP executive director, attended a forum "honoring the people of Israel" and reportedly refused to condemn Israel's killing of more than 105 UNRWA and other UN relief workers in Gaza since the start of its war on the strip.

McCain's actions triggered widespread anger among some in the ranks of the program who circulated an internal letter questioning her ethics and neutrality in the face of an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.

Cindy McCain, the widow of late US Senator John McCain who was a staunch supporter of Israel, was nominated by the Biden administration to run the Rome-based WFP earlier this year and took office in April.

Sabry's resignation is the latest act of protest or outrage declared by staff in the United Nations system against the inability of the international organization to mount an effective response to the violations of the human rights of Palestinians by Israel in the current war.

In late October, Director of the New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Craig Mokhiber resigned in protest, expressing concerns about the response of certain parts of the UN system to issues related to Palestinian Human Rights amid the war.

'Sense of helplessness'

In her post, Sabry noted: "All these years I have seen how brave men and women around the world have dedicated their lives to serving others - and for that, I have deep love and respect for them."

"Over the past weeks, I have witnessed and shared the experiences of my dedicated colleagues at WFP," explained Sabry.

There was "a sense of helplessness because they are unable to carry out their duty to the fullest extent, as they always do, towards children, mothers, fathers, and grandparents in Gaza," she added.

"There was little they could do in the face of the crushing war machine that had no mercy on civilians who were besieged by death."

"I have tried to make my voice heard at the highest level of the World Food Program and to join my colleagues in calling for WFP to be used – as it has done successfully before, to advocate and push hard for an immediate, humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, and to leverage WFP’s influence to prevent the use of starvation as a weapon of war."

"I was certain that the World Food Program - which had won the Nobel Peace Prize just 3 years earlier - was an active participant in UN Resolution 2417, which condemned the use of starvation as a method of war, and would use its voice as powerfully as it did in emergencies and multiple humanitarian crises."

"However, starvation and blockades have been used as weapons of war over the past 46 days against more than two million civilians in Gaza," she noted.

"It is a weapon that has so far killed more than 14,000 people, made more than 1.6 million people homeless, destroyed half of the buildings, and bombed hospitals and schools that were supposed to be safe shelters."

"For this reason, I announce my resignation and wish all my colleagues in the World Food Program safety and peace."

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