The following is a transcript of an interview with Cindy McCain, World Food Programme executive director, that aired on Nov. 26, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the Executive Director of the World Food Program, Cindy McCain, also part of the United Nations. Director McCain, we just heard this ceasefire is bringing some aid into Gaza. But UNICEF just published some information saying that there is a life threatening form of malnutrition in children that could increase by nearly 30% in Gaza, weakened immune systems, weight loss, death from illness like common cold and diarrhea. They are talking simply about the children who make up half the population. What are you doing to prevent this from happening?
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR WORLD FOOD PROGRAM, CINDY MCCAIN: Well, thank you for having me. First of all, the-the bottom line here is that we need to get more aid in as-as has been said, we're looking at a possible-possibly being on the brink of famine in this region. This is something that not only terrific, but it will spread. And-and with that comes disease and-and everything else that you can imagine. Bottom line, we need more trucks in, and we need more aid in, we need to be able to have more access to be able to distribute the aid. And, and you know, hopefully, maybe a longer time to do that, not just four days. We look forward to-to making sure that we can work with all of our partners on the ground and in the area to make sure that this can happen. And I want to thank the Egyptians for being so helpful in all of this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: UNICEF also said approximately 30,000 children under the age of five and Gaza had stunted growth. And this was even before the war began.
CINDY MCCAIN: Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why?
CINDY MCCAIN: Well, I- the access for aid again, prior to the war, and then of course, since the war, has been an issue all along, and the ability to make-to make sure that that these children get the proper nutrients, not just food, but the proper nutrients in this. It's a terrific situation. It's-it is-is a massive, catastrophic event that is- is occurring, and it will cross regions as it happens. We have got to be able to get in there. And not only that, we have to make sure that we can safely have access to be able to feed the people that we need to feed. So far, we've fed about 110,000 since the- since the ceasefire, but we need to do a lot more than that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: For the next generations, no doubt. I know you were looking at the entire globe here. And there is a lot of need right now. I read that the World Food Program had to cut off 10 million people in Afghanistan. In Africa, you've announced you have to end food aid for more than a million people in Chad, suspend aid in Nigeria, CAR and Cameroon. How do you possibly prioritize need? And how do you decide who to cut off?
CINDY MCCAIN: Margaret, it's something that keeps me awake at night. And I that- that's the honest truth. It's very difficult to do. But the problem is, is-is not-is not just the-the ability to not be able to feed. But it's- the problem is the world needs to step up and help us. Cutting off 10 million people, primarily women and children in Afghanistan is- it's deadly. It will- it will kill the country. So we've got to be able to make sure that we can get aid in and more importantly, we need our countries around the world, not just the United States, but every country in the world to step up and help us to feed people who cannot feed themselves.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The last time we spoke you emphasized that some countries could provide technology, advice on how to do it if they don't want to kick in money. China, of course, is one of those countries that's been pressed to do more here. Are you seeing anything more?
CINDY MCCAIN: Well, I'm seeing other countries yes, step up and offer things and begin to work with us on a daily basis to see how we can better improve, not just not just what we we give, but how it's grown and can be grown with less water, more technology. It's a series of things to try to combat not only climate change, but the effects of COVID as well as conflict. It's a long range prospect, but we do need the technology.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And specifically the crisis was made worse by Russia's invasion of Ukraine which is such a breadbasket for the world. How significant is that conflict now on supply?
CINDY MCCAIN: Well, it as you know, it has- it has managed to really devastate many countries, not just from not having enough grain to be able to to distribute, but also enough money to be able to do that. The-the-the Russian invasion has caused catastrophic effects of dribbles all way down through Africa, as was mentioned, and so forth. Ukraine was very significant in all this. We are getting grain out, as you know, it's going in different directions. But we are getting some out, but this is a catastrophic event, as I said, and it's affected nearly every country in the world.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Director McCain, we thank you for working on these hard issues and your time today.
CINDY MCCAIN: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.
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