U.N. World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned this week that the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China, could have a devastating impact on world hunger and could push well over 100 million people to the brink of starvation. Beasley also warned that there was a “real danger” that more people could die from the economic fallout than from the actual virus.
“This sounds truly shocking, but let me give you the numbers: 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, chronically hungry, and as the new Global Report on Food Crisis published today shows, there are a further 135 million people facing crisis levels of hunger or worse,” Beasley said. “That means 135 million people on earth are marching towards the brink of starvation. But now the World Food Program analysis shows that, due to the Coronavirus, an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020. That’s a total of 265 million people.”
Beasley highlighted conflict and economic turmoil throughout Africa and the Middle East as being the major factors that are driving starvation in those regions, which are some of the most underdeveloped places on earth.
“There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself,” Beasley said. “Lockdowns and economic recession are expected to lead to a major loss of income among the working poor. Overseas remittances will also drop sharply – this will hurt countries such as Haiti, Nepal, and Somalia just a name a couple.”
“The loss of tourism receipts will damage countries such as Ethiopia, where it accounts for 47% of total exports. The collapsing oil prices in lower-income countries like South Sudan will have an impact significantly, where oil accounts for 98.8% of total exports. And, of course, when donor countries’ revenues are down, how much impact will this have on life saving foreign aid,” Beasley continued. “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.”
Beasley warned that a worst-case scenario would be a famine breaking out in dozens of countries in the most vulnerable regions on earth where more than a million people face starvation on a daily basis.
“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 continued. “In many places, this human suffering is the heavy price of conflict.”
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