The Population Living In Acute Hunger May
Double This Year Due To Coronavirus
April 21, 2020, NPR
Even without a global pandemic multiplying the world's problems,
the data are staggering.
Roughly 135 million people across the
world lived on the brink of starvation last year, according to
the World Food Program. For some context, the number of people
who could not reliably obtain enough food in 2019 exceeded the
entire population of Mexico and
came close to matching Russia's.
That was before the coronavirus spread to
nearly every country across the globe, overwhelming vulnerable
medical infrastructures and spelling disaster for even the
Now, the United Nations agency fears that the number of people
facing food crises across the world will nearly double — spiking
to 265 million this year.
"We're already facing a perfect storm,"
WFP Executive Director David Beasley said in his prepared
remarks to the U.N. Security Council
He noted the wars that have already raged
for years in Syria and Yemen, the locust
swarms that have ravaged crops in East
Africa, and the economic
crises that were hobbling a number of
countries even before the virus' arrival.
"So today, with COVID-19, I want to stress that we are not only
facing a global health pandemic but also a global humanitarian
catastrophe," Beasley said. "Millions of civilians living in
conflict-scarred nations, including many women and children,
face being pushed to the brink of starvation, with the specter
of famine a very real and dangerous possibility."
The agency's full
report makes clear that those already
displaced by violence or environmental disaster are
"particularly vulnerable" to the health and economic impacts of
the disease, as they typically have the least access to the
kinds of social distancing, hand-washing facilities and remote
work recommended by health authorities. And they're often
recipients of the humanitarian support offered by aid groups —
disrupted by the pandemic.
Beasley pushed for the world to adopt the
global cease-fire proposed
last month by U.N. Secretary-General
António Guterres and said humanitarian groups are in desperate
need of support to stockpile food as a buffer for the most
"COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for
millions who are already hanging by a thread," the agency's
chief economist, Arif Husain, said in a
statement released with the report.
"It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they
earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have
already decimated their nest eggs," Husain added. "It only takes
one more shock — like COVID-19 — to push them over the edge. We
must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global
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