WFP's bid to provide food to hungry people
- WFP undertakes the biggest humanitarian response in its history, aiming to assist 138m
- The agency assisted 97m hungry people in 2019
- WFP seeks $4.9bn food fund over next 6 months for its life-saving work in 83 countries
- The number of hungry people in countries where WFP operates could rise to 270m before the end of 2020
- WFP says the fallout from the pandemic is being felt hardest in Latin America and among urban communities in low- and middle-income countries
Millions of people have been pushed into hunger by the current coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations World Food Programme said on Monday, as it announced a massive rise in the number of hungry people it plans to assist around the world in the wake of the crisis.
The agency appealed for $4.9 billion to help feed 138 million hungry people in 83 poor- and middle-income countries over the next six months.
"The frontline in the battle against the coronavirus is shifting from the rich world to the poor world," said David Beasley, WFP's executive director.
"Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos. Without it, we could see increased social unrest and protests, a rise in migration, deepening conflict and widespread under-nutrition among populations that were previously immune from hunger."
To tackle the rising tide of hunger, WFP is undertaking the biggest humanitarian response in its history, ramping up the number of people it assists to up to 138 million from a previous record of 97 million in 2019, said WFP.
It, however, noted that sustained funding is needed to support its work to provide food to the most vulnerable and to support governments working to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The number of hungry people in the countries where it operates could increase to 270 million before the end of 2020 — an 82% increase from before the pandemic took hold, said WFP.
The crisis unfolds at a time when the number of severely food insecure people in the world had already risen nearly 70 percent over the past four years, compounding the effects of climate change, conflict and socio-economic shocks in regions of the world that had previously escaped severe levels of food insecurity.
The fallout from the pandemic is being felt hardest in Latin America, which has seen an almost three-fold rise in the number of people requiring food assistance, and among urban communities in low- and middle-income countries, which are being dragged into destitution by job losses and a precipitous drop in remittances.
Spikes in hunger are also evident in West and Central Africa which has seen a 135 percent jump in the number of food insecure people as well as in Southern Africa where there has been a 90 percent rise.
Coronavirus infection levels are climbing at the very moment when food stocks in some parts of the world are already low. At this time of year many farmers are awaiting crops from new harvests.
Hurricane and monsoon seasons are getting underway, while record locust invasions in East Africa and outbreaks of conflict are adding to an already challenging outlook for the world's hungry.
"This unprecedented crisis requires an unprecedented response. If we do not respond rapidly and effectively to this viral threat, the outcome will be measured in an unconscionable loss of life, and efforts to roll back the tide of hunger will be undone," noted Beasley.
The new challenge requires a big increase in the use of cash-based transfers. Over half of WFP's new response plan will be delivered in cash and vouchers — allowing urban communities to purchase their food needs in local markets, which boosts local economies.