JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Millions of people have become hungry from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The frontline in the fight against the coronavirus is shifting from the rich world to the poor world,” said David Beasley, executive director of WFP. “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”
He said that without access to adequate food, the world can see “more social unrest and protests, an increase in migration, mounting conflict, and widespread malnutrition among populations previously immune to hunger.”
To tackle the rising tide of hunger, WFP is undertaking the largest humanitarian response in its history, with the goal of helping 138 million people, compared to a previous record of 97 million in 2019. The agency says sustainable funding is needed for its work in 83 countries, to provide food for the most vulnerable, and to support governments that prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The number of hungry people in the countries where it operates could increase to 270 million by the end of 2020 – an 82% increase from before the pandemic broke out, the WFP said.
The impact of the pandemic is felt most severely in Latin America, where the number of people in need of food aid has increased nearly threefold, and among urban communities in low and middle-income countries, which are being dragged into poverty by job losses and a sharp decline in remittances.
Hunger peaks are also visible in West and Central Africa, where food uncertainties have increased by 135%, as well as in South Africa, where there has been a 90% increase.
Coronavirus infection levels rise when food supplies are already low in some parts of the world. At this time of year, many farmers are waiting for crops from new harvests. Hurricane and monsoon seasons get underway, while record grasshopper attacks in East Africa and outbreaks of conflict contribute to an already challenging view of the world’s hunger.
“This unprecedented crisis requires an unprecedented response. If we do not respond quickly and effectively to this viral threat, the outcome will be measured in an unscrupulous loss of life and the efforts to reduce the tide of hunger will be undone, “said Beasley.
The new challenge requires a large increase in the use of money transfers. More than half of WFP’s new response plan will be delivered in cash and vouchers, enabling urban communities to purchase their food needs in local markets, boosting local economies.
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