The world is facing multiple famines of “biblical proportions” in just a matter of months, the UN has said, warning that the coronavirus pandemic will push an additional 130 million people to the brink of starvation.
CNN reports that the executive director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, said famines could take hold in “about three dozen countries” in a worst-case scenario in a stark address on Tuesday.
He cited conflict, an economic recession, a decline in aid and a collapse in oil prices as factors likely to lead to vast food shortages, and urged swift action to avert disaster.
“While dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic. There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself,” David Beasley told the UN’s security council.
The WFP had already warned that 2020 would be a devastating year for numerous countries ravaged by poverty or war, with 135 million people facing crisis levels of hunger or worse. Their updated projections nearly double that number.
Ten countries were singled out as particularly at-risk, after housing the worst food crises last year; Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti.
Most of those countries have so far been spared the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, with the epicentre moving from China to Europe to North America, but the state of their healthcare institutions means even relatively small outbreaks could be devastating.