UN Food Chief urges rich to help keep millions from starving

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The World Food Programme (WFP) Chief warned on Thursday that millions of people are closer to starvation because of the deadly combination of conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic and he urged donor nations and billionaires to help feed them and ensure their survival.

The United Nations (UN) programme’s Chief David Beasley told the UN Security Council that the response to his warning five months ago of a potential “hunger pandemic” had averted famine and kept people alive but the work wasn’t done.

The WFP and its partners were going all out to reach as many as 138 million people this year – “the biggest scale-up in our history,” he said.

But more was needed to help “the 270 million people marching toward the brink of starvation”. Already, 30 million rely solely on WFP for food to survive and will die without it, Beasley said. He warned famine was possible in up to three dozen countries and could overwhelm places already weakened by conflict.

Beasley cited Congo where violence has increased and instability already has forced 15.5 million people near starvation. He also said a lack of funding has forced cutbacks in assistance to feed people in Yemen, which faces the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. And in Nigeria and South Sudan, millions more people have become food insecure because of the pandemic, he said.

He said WFP needs USD4.9 billion to feed 30 million people who will die without the programme’s assistance for a year.

“It’s time for those who have the most to step up, to help those who have the least in this extraordinary time in world history,” Beasley said.

Internally displaced Congolese people wait for a World Food Programme energy biscuits to be distributed in Kibati, north of Goma, eastern Congo. PHOTO: AP