With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to ravage the world, the United Nations (UN) has warned the planet could be facing “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within the coming few months.
Around 36 countries could be pushed into severe famine under a worst-case scenario due to the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, with millions of people worldwide expected to fall into a “crisis level” of hunger and malnutrition, according to David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN's food relief agency.
Speaking at a virtual session of the UN Security Council titled "Protecting Civilians Affected by Conflict-Induced Hunger" on Tuesday, Beasley said that 2020 was already predicted to see the “worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two” before the Covid-19 pandemic struck due to deepening crises across the world in places like Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia.
Now, with much of the world bracing for the collateral damage of the Covid-19 outbreak, the situation in these areas could go from bad to catastrophic.
“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,” Beasley said to the Security Council.
“There are no famines yet. But I must warn you that if we don’t prepare and act now – to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls, and disruptions to trade – we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.”
The warning comes just days after the WFP published the Global Report on Food Crises, which looks to provide insights into the forces behind the world’s mounting food crises. The report found 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, while a further 135 million people are facing crisis levels of hunger or worse.
The most worrying regions the report identified were Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria, and Haiti. All of these countries have varying factors that drive their food crises, but the recurring themes are conflict, political instability, economic crises, natural disasters, and changing climates. Many of these factors are only set to worsen as the whole world deals with the economic fallout of the pandemic.
“The economic and health impacts of Covid-19 are most worrisome for communities in countries across Africa as well as the Middle East, because the virus threatens further damage to the lives and livelihoods of people already put at risk by conflict," added Beasley.
However, there was some hope. The WFP has already stockpiled months' worth of food and supplies in anticipation of the crisis and plans to set up a new network of logistics hubs and transport systems to keep humanitarian supply chains moving around the world. To fund this, they are asking for upwards of $2 billion in donations from their global partnerships.
“I do believe that with our expertise and partnerships, we can bring together the teams and the programs necessary to make certain the Covid-19 pandemic does not become a humanitarian and food crisis catastrophe,” he concluded.