The corona virus still mainly victims in rich countries, but threatens far more serious consequences for poor countries. The WFP, the United Nations food aid organization, raised the alarm this week about imminent food shortages among millions of people, especially in Africa and the Middle East.
Director David Beasley told the UN Security Council that without the corona virus this year is also “the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II”. This is due to the many conflicts, natural disasters such as the plague of locusts in eastern Africa and changing weather patterns. The coronavirus outbreak threatens to further escalate this situation, he warned. Many countries are “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” that can lead to “famines of Biblical proportions”.
The WFP expects the number of people with life-threatening hunger to nearly double by the end of this year. Aside from the corona crisis, 820 million people went to bed hungry every night and needed 135 million food aid. Without intervention, the latter number will rise to 265 million this year. In the worst case scenario, Beasley outlined, if the WFP is unable to reach the 30 million people most dependent on aid, 300,000 people can die every day for three months, regardless of the deaths caused by the virus itself. Famine can develop in more than 30 countries.
Especially people who live in conflict areas or refugee camps and are already weakened are at risk of succumbing to increasing food shortages. The WFP notably names northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, but also Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Sudan and Haiti.
Countries that rely heavily on imported food, such as Somalia, or see their earnings collapse, such as oil producer Angola, are also at great risk. And although children are much less susceptible to coronavirus than adults, they are most vulnerable to malnutrition.
No more income
Shortages can arise in two ways in this crisis. In the first place, lockdowns, border restrictions and loss of manpower can disrupt the chain of production, transport, processing and trade in food. People also lose their income, which prevents them from paying for food that is available.
Also read: Will there be more hunger? And other questions about an impending food crisis
Whether it will really turn out as disastrous as the WFP outlines, is still unknown, says Thea Hilhorst, professor of humanitarian studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam. “The main feature of the corona crisis is uncertainty. For example, we do not yet know how the virus will household in Africa. One says it can be easy, partly because the population is young. Another points to the relatively high percentage of malnourished people, who have a weaker health. ” We also have to wait and see what solutions people will find in the often large informal part of the economy, Hilhorst says. “If food chains are interrupted, some of the people may start growing more food locally again.”
So the WFP cannot accurately predict what will happen, but “they would be crazy if they didn’t prepare to scale up, and scale up further if needed,” said the professor. WFP says it will bring as many supplies as possible to distribution points as long as the supply routes are open. Costs are expected to rise by $ 2 billion this year. Donors were asked to transfer promised money early. Another quarter of aid requests made by the UN in March have only been received.
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from April 23, 2020