World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley gave a warning to the UN Security Council on Tuesday that unless urgent action is taken now, the coronavirus crisis will result in “multiple famines of biblical proportions.”
Beasley isn’t talking about the world’s breadbaskets like the U.S. heartland and Ukraine being unable to grow crops. What he’s pointing to is a massive disruption in food supply networks around the world so that those who are already vulnerable to starvation are threatened.
“Forgive me for speaking bluntly, but I’d like to lay out for you very clearly what the world is facing at this very moment,” Beasley said. “At the same time while dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic.”
Millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations are being “pushed to the brink of starvation” amid the crisis, with famine “a very real and dangerous possibility,” he said.
It’s not just civilians in war zones, either. Ordinarily, there are almost a billion people on the planet who are uncertain where their next meal is coming from. The pandemic’s fallout has the potential of pushing these people over the edge to where their lives and health are severely threatened.
The World Food Program had already warned that 135 million people across the world are facing “crisis levels of hunger or worse” — but their updated projections during the pandemic nearly double that number.
That’s in addition to the 821 million people already chronically hungry, Beasley said.
Lockdowns and economic recessions will likely lead to a major loss of income among the working poor, he said.
Beasley told the Security Council, “In a worst-case scenario, we could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries, and in fact, in 10 of these countries we already have more than one million people per country who are on the verge of starvation.”
“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 short few months,” he said.
In the U.S., there were early fears that an economic shutdown would lead to food shortages. But while some meat and produce supplies have been disrupted, there is still meat on the shelves of most stores. And even though many meat processing plants have shut down, supplies appear to be adequate.
But for how long is anyone’s guess. The amazing thing is that supply is adjusting to the new reality. That’s what a free market will do. And while there will continue to be disruptions of some product supplies and farmers will continue to dump produce, eggs, and milk, the U.S. consumer is not in danger of going hungry anytime soon.
The same cannot be said for a large portion of people on the planet. But what can we do? Most of us have less disposable income than we did before, which means we can’t donate to these international relief agencies. They are going to have to depend on other governments funding them.
And most governments have their own problems with food supplies. It appears that Beasley’s prediction of global famine may come to pass unless we can find a way to defeat the coronavirus and get back to some semblance of normalcy.
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