Nobel winner urges billionaires to save millions

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The head of the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP), this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, again urged billionaires to donate just a few billion to save millions of lives, saying on Friday the number of people “marching toward starvation” has jumped to 270 million since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Humanity needs the help right now,” David Beasley said. “This is a one-time request… The world is at a crossroads, and we need from the billionaires to step up in a way they’ve never stepped up before.”

The Executive Director of the United Nations (UN) food agency told a virtual UN press conference that the global wealth of some 2,200 billionaires rose by about USD2 trillion between April and July as the pandemic raged.

He was referring to a study by Swiss bank UBS and accounting firm PwC published last week which said the global wealth of billionaires climbed from USD8 trillion at the start of April to USD10.2 trillion in July.

“I just need a few billion to save millions of lives and save humanity from one of the greatest catastrophes since World War II,” Beasley said. “It’s not too much to ask.”

Asked for names of some of the billionaires he was targetting Beasley replied: “I don’t get to hang around with that crowd. I’m hanging around people who are starving to death.”

He said WFP is “greatly concerned about 2021” because budgets weren’t calculated to take into account the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beasley said wealthy countries put USD17 trillion into economic stimulus packages for their citizens to tackle the coronavirus, and “that’s USD17 trillion that isn’t going to be available for 2021”.

This year, he said, many governments reached deeper into their pockets while they could and gave the UN and its agencies more money, but the governments are now “tapped out”.