The world is heading towards widespread famine “of biblical proportions” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the chief of the UN’s food relief agency warns. He added that we only have a small window to act before hundreds of millions starve reports.
Over 30 developing worldwide could experience widespread famine. In 10 of those countries, over 1 million people on the brink of starvation, warns David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program.
“We are not talking about people going to bed hungry,” he said to The Guardian in an interview. “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.”
The UN official connects the pandemic in the developing countries to a strain on the economy that he says is already limiting resources.
“This is truly more than just a pandemic – it is creating a hunger pandemic,” said Beasley. “This is a humanitarian and food catastrophe.”
Beasley relayed his message to the UN security council last week, warning world leaders that they need to act quickly as the current situation is rapidly deteriorating. He called on them to provide roughly $2 billion in humanitarian aid that has already been pledged, to bring it to “the front line” as soon as possible.
Another $350m is also required for a logistics network bring food and medical supplies – including personal protective equipment to those areas.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Beasley was appealing to donor states to increase food relief funding to the poorest as both conflict and natural disaster placed a severe strain on food infrastructure.
“I was already saying that 2020 would be the worst year since the second world war, on the basis of what we forecast at the end of last year,” he said. Making matters worse, earlier this year, eastern Africa was plagued by the worst locust swarms in decades, putting up to 70 million people at risk.
But the coronavirus crisis, which blindsided the world, has “taken us to uncharted territory”, he added. “Now, my goodness, this is a perfect storm. We are looking at widespread famines of biblical proportions.”