World at risk of `biblical famines` due to COVID-19, says UN

World at risk of `biblical famines` due to COVID-19, says UN

The world is facing multiple famines of "biblical proportions" in just a matter of months, the United Nations has said, warning that the coronavirus pandemic will push an additional 130 million people to the brink of starvation.

Beasley pointed to the economic crisis in Lebanon, wars in Syria and Yemen, and the swarms of desert locusts destroying crops for much of East Africa as pre-existing factors that were already setting 2020 up to be a risky year for hunger.

"COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread", said Arif Husain, chief economist and director of research, assessment and monitoring at the WFP.

The Global Report on Food Crises listed them as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti.

While there are no famines yet, "we do not have time on our side", Beasley said, urging world leaders to act quickly in providing aid. "Lockdowns and economic recession are expected to lead to a major loss of income among the working poor", Beasley said. He asked all combatants to grant unhindered access for humanitarian assistance, and to invest $ 350 million in the establishment of a network of logistics centres, enabling the movement of humanitarian relief supplies around the world.

The increase by more than 20 million people in this year's report takes it to a record level in the four years the report has been compiled.

But the economic impact of COVID-19 is projected by the WFP to increase the number facing food insecurity to 265 million this year, from 135 million in 2019, already the highest in the four years the report has been prepared.

Beasley said with COVID-19, the world not only faces a global health pandemic but also a global humanitarian catastrophe. In fact, in ten of these countries we already have over a million people in each of them on the brink of starvation, "he said, without identifying the countries in question".

Noting that the global spread of COVID-19 this year has sparked "the worst humanitarian crisis since World War-II", Beasley pointed to deepening crises, more frequent natural disasters and changing weather patterns, saying, "We're already facing a ideal storm".

Al Jazeera's Hiba Morgan, reporting from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, said in neighbouring South Sudan even prior to COVID-19 "there were over five million people who were facing starvation, many of them relying on food aid to survive - 1.7 million women and children acutely malnourished".

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