The United Nations warns that the COVID-19 pandemic is on the cusp of causing global famines of "biblical proportions."
What are the details?
According to CNN, the famines will affect the world in a matter of months and will likely push an already coronavirus-struck population of 130 million people to the brink of starvation.
In a Tuesday address, David Beasley — the executive director of the World Food Programme — told the UN Security Council during a video conference that widespread famines could affect "about three dozen countries" in the coming months.
CNN reported that Beasley — a former Republican South Carolina governor — cited "conflict, an economic recession, a decline in aid, and a collapse in oil prices" as factors that could lead to massive food shortages.
"While dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic," Beasley said. "There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself."
A report from the agency identified at least 55 countries around the world that are at elevated risk of famine due to the virus.
A portion of the report read, "These countries may face an excruciating trade-off between saving lives or livelihoods, or, in a worst-case scenario, saving people from the coronavirus to have them die from hunger."
What countries will most likely be impacted?
Those countries include:
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- South Sudan
"Exceptional drought followed by extremely heavy rainfall markedly decreased the seasonal crop yield in the Horn of Africa during 2019," the outlet added. "These irregular weather and climate patterns also contributed to the worst desert locust invasion in 25 years, which further threatened the crop supply in the region."
Beasley added that other measures — such as lockdowns and recessions — will also lead to a "major loss of income among the working poor" around the world.
"The loss of tourism receipts will damage countries such as Ethiopia [and] the collapsing oil prices in lower-income countries like South Sudan will have an impact significantly," he pointed out.
"There are no famines yet. But I must warn you that if we don't prepare and act now — to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls, and disruptions to trade — we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a few short months," he added.
"The truth is," he concluded, "we do not have time on our side, so let's act wisely — and let's act fast. I do believe that with our expertise and partnerships, we can bring together the terms and the programs necessary to make certain the COVID-19 pandemic does not become a humanitarian and food crisis catastrophe."
WFP Chief warns of hunger pandemic as #COVID19 spreads. Read full statement— World Food Programme (@World Food Programme)1587483175
Beasley told the Guardian that famine is more than just hunger.
"We are not talking about people going to bed hungry," he said. "We are talking about extreme conditions, emergency status – people literally marching to the brink of starvation. If we don't get food to people, people will die."
He added, "This is truly more than just a pandemic — it is creating a hunger pandemic. This is a humanitarian and food catastrophe."