A hunger pandemic looms around the world as COVID-19 continues to spread warns WFP boss

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United Natons (UN) estimates that ending world hunger will cost US$267 billion per year. PHOTO/FILE PICTURE

KEY FACTS

  • 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world
  • 300,000 people could starve to death every single day over a three-month period
  • 135 million people on earth are marching towards the brink of starvation
  • Due to the Coronavirus, an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020
  • 77 million people suffering acute food insecurity as 2019 due to conflict
  • 34 million people suffering acute food insecurity as 2019 due to climate change
  • 24 million people suffering acute food insecurity as 2019 due to economic crises

(Source: WFP/Global Report on Food Crises)

By PATRICK MAYOYO

The world is on the brink of a hunger pandemic, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasleyhas warned

Mr Beasley said in conversations with world leaders over the past many months, before the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus he had warned that 2020 would be facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II for a number of reasons.

“Forgive me for speaking bluntly, but I’d like to lay out for you very clearly what the world is facing at this very moment. At the same time while dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic,” he said during a virtual session of the UN Security Council on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Protecting Civilians Affected by Conflict-Induced Hunger on Tuesday.

His warning came as the UN agency released a report showing that the COVID-19 pandemic could almost double the number of people suffering acute hunger, pushing it to more than a quarter of a billion by the end of 2020.

Picture of a starving man that angered Kenyans over Turkana ‘starvation’ in 2019 being ignored. PHOTO/BBC

The 2020 Global Report on Food Crises  produced by WFP and 15 other humanitarian and development partners was released as WFP warned that the number of people facing acute food insecurity (IPC/CH 3 or worse) stands to rise to 265 million in 2020, up by 130 million from the 135 million in 2019, as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19.

Mr Beasley said the hunger situation around the world had been made worse by the wars Syria and Yemen, the deepening crises in places like South Sudan, Burkina Faso and the Central Sahel region, desert locust swarms in Africa, and more frequent natural disasters and changing weather patterns.

“The economic crisis in Lebanon affecting millions of Syrian refugees, DRC, Sudan, Ethiopia. And the list goes on. We’re already facing a perfect storm,” he said.  

The WFP boss said today, with COVID-19, the world was not only facing a global health pandemic but also a global humanitarian catastrophe adding that millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations, including many women and children, face being pushed to the brink of starvation, with the spectre of famine a very real and dangerous possibility.

“This sounds truly shocking but let me give you the numbers: 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, chronically hungry, and as the new Global Report on Food Crisis published today shows, there are a further 135 million people facing crisis levels of hunger or worse,” he said.

Mr Beasley said that means 135 million people on earth are marching towards the brink of starvation and WFP analysis shows that, due to the Coronavirus, an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020.  That’s a total of 265 million people.

United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley. PHOTO/WFP

He added that on any given day now, WFP offers a lifeline to nearly 100 million people, up from about 80 million just a few years ago and this includes about 30 million people who literally depend on it to stay alive.

“If we can’t reach these people with the life-saving assistance they need, our analysis shows that 300,000 people could starve to death every single day over a three-month period.  This does not include the increase of starvation due to COVID-19,” he warned.

Mr Beasley said in a worst-case scenario, the world could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries, and in 10 of these countries they already have more than one million people per country who are on the verge of starvation. In many places, this human suffering is the heavy price of conflict.

He said WFP, was pleased the UN Security Council made the historic decision to pass Resolution 2417 in May 2018 and urged member states to live up to their pledge to protect the most vulnerable and act immediately to save lives.

“There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself,” he observed saying that was why he was talking about a hunger pandemic.

Mr Beasley emphasized that it is critical for the world to come together as one united global community to defeat COVID-19 disease, and protect the most vulnerable nations and communities from its potentially devastating effects.

He added that lockdowns and economic recession are expected to lead to a major loss of income among the working poor and overseas remittances will also drop sharply hurting many countries.

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