Urgent and immediate action is needed to prevent widespread famine of “Biblical proportions” as the coronavirus pandemic worsens existing world food crises, the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned on 21 April.
At least 265 million people are being pushed to the brink of starvation by the Covid-19 crisis, double the number under threat before the pandemic, David Beasley, executive director of the WFP, told a virtual session of the UN Security Council.
“We are not talking about people going to bed hungry. We are talking about extreme conditions, emergency status – people literally marching to the brink of starvation. If we don’t get food to people, people will die,” Beasley warned.
In 2020, the world is already facing the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War due to a number of factors including the wars in Syria and Yemen, and extensive terror activity in across the central Sahel countries, causing tens of thousands to flee their homes. In East Africa, the worst locust plague for decades has already put as many as 70 million people at risk acute food insecurity.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which no one could have foreseen, has “taken us to uncharted territory”, he added. “This is a perfect storm. We are looking at widespread famines of Biblical proportions.
“This is truly more than just a pandemic – it is creating a hunger pandemic. This is a humanitarian and food catastrophe.”
He added, “In a worst-case scenario, we could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries and, in fact, in ten of these countries we already have more than one million people per country who are on the verge of starvation.”
Beasley urged world leaders to bring forward $2bn (£1.6bn) of the aid pledged, so that it can reach the frontline as quickly as possible, with a stark warning. “If we can’t reach these people with the life-saving assistance … 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.”
Barnabas Fund, barnabasfund.org