World faces hunger pandemic with biblical proportions, UN warns

Even now 821 million people go to bed hungry every night

The head of the UN food agency warned on Tuesday that, as the world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it is also “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” that could lead to “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within a few months if immediate action isn’t taken, news wires reported.

World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told the UN Security Council that even before COVID-19 became an issue, he was telling world leaders that “2020 would be facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.” That’s because of wars in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, locust swarms in Africa, frequent natural disasters and economic crises including in Lebanon, Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia, he said.

Beasley said today 821m people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, a further 135m people are facing “crisis levels of hunger or worse,” and a new World Food Program analysis shows that as a result of COVID-19 an additional 130 million people “could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020.” He said in the video briefing that WFP is providing food to nearly 100 million people on any given day, including “about 30m people who literally depend on us to stay alive.”

Beasley, who is recovering from COVID-19, said if those 30m people can’t be reached, “our analysis shows that 300,000 people could starve to death every single day over a three-month period”, and that doesn’t include increased starvation due to the coronavirus.

Beasley said in many countries the food crisis is the result of conflict. But he said he raised the prospect of “a hunger pandemic” because “there is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself.” The WFP chief said lockdowns and economic recession are expected to lead to major income losses for the working poor. He pointed to a sharp drop in overseas remittances that will hurt countries such as Haiti, Nepal and Somalia; a loss of tourism revenue which, for example, will damage Ethiopia where it accounts for 47% of total exports; and the collapse of oil prices which will have a significant impact in lower-income countries like South Sudan where oil accounts for almost 99% of total exports.

As the UN’s logistics backbone, Beasley said WFP has played a major role in tackling COVID-19 by delivering millions of pieces of protective equipment, testing kits and face masks to 78 countries on behalf of the WHO and by running humanitarian air services to get doctors, nurses and humanitarian staff into countries that need help.

 

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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