Majority of the world has always been hungry and a new wave of famine is likely to sweep the globe in the coming years with the Covid pandemic moving into a dangerous phase. Giving an alarm call, the United Nations World Food Programme said that the global hunger crisis caused by several conflicts is now compounded by COVID-19 and moving into a threatening phase.
In the absence of resources, a wave of famine could sweep the globe overwhelming nations already weakened by years of instability, World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley said while briefing the United Nations Security Council.
In his briefing, Beasley also recalled his April briefing to the 15 member Council. At that time, he had warned that the world was on the verge of a hunger pandemic. And a result, he said that donors and countries took extraordinary measures to save people’s lives, spending 17 trillion dollars in fiscal stimulus packages.
He said that the agency was also going all out to reach 138 million people in 2020, the biggest scale up in the agency’s history.
Beasley claimed that they were doing everything that they could to stop the dam from bursting. However, this cannot be done without resources, he added.
2021 a ‘make or break’ year
Acknowledging that the reserves of governments are depleting, Beasley said 2021 would be a make or break year. “I urge you: do not walk away from our commitment to humanitarian assistance. Do not turn your backs on the world’s hungry,” he said.
The Executive Director also underscored the critical importance of balancing sensible measures to contain the pandemic with others to keep borders open and trade flows moving.
Stating that the conditions in Africa was “a matter of life and death”, he cited calculations by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that for every COVID-19 death prevented, 80 children may die from a lack of routine vaccination.
Crisis levels of hunger in Africa, Middle East
The UN said that the upsurge in violence, combined with the effects of COVID in the Democratic Republic of Congo has sent the 15.5 million people already facing crisis levels of food insecurity skyrocketing to 22 million. In Nigeria, 4.3 million people are food insecure, an increase of 600,000. In Burkina Faso, where fighting is taking deeper root, the number of people facing crisis levels of hunger tripled to 3.3 million people, as COVID-19 compounds displacement, security and access problems.
Twenty million people in Yemen are in crisis with another three million potentially facing starvation due to the pandemic. Beasley warned that they would be forced to cut rations for the remaining 4.4 million by December if resources were not increased. The world needs to open up its eyes to the Yemeni people before famine takes hold.
Noting that there were 2,000 billionaires in the world with a collective net worth of eight trillion dollars, he said that WFP only need 4.9 billion dollars for one year to keep 30 million people from dying.
Extreme poverty rising, humanitarian system overwhelmed
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said that 135 million people faced acute food insecurity before COVID-19. These numbers will almost double this year to 270 million people, Lowcock added.
Though humanitarian systems are doing its utmost, it is in danger of being overwhelmed by the scale of the needs. “That will get worse in the absence of a lot more financial help,” he said. .
Lowcock called for scaling up support for humanitarian operations, noting that history has proved that famine can be prevented even in the midst of conflict.
Plea for scaled up support
Food and Agricultural Organization Director General Qu Dongyu said that the pandemic pushed millions into more serious hunger and acute food insecurity. This was particularly in areas where conflict and other factors such as economic turbulence, and extreme weather, are already driving people into poverty and hunger.
Dongyu stated that the hardest hit included urban poor, informal workers and pastoral communities as well as people who are already vulnerable – children, women, the elderly, the sick, and persons with disabilities.
He said that forecasts for food security would continue to worsen if there was no political willingness and collective action.