'We're facing a double pandemic': UN body warns of 'mega-famines'

'We're facing a double pandemic': UN body warns of 'mega-famines'


The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that the planet faces "mega-famines" if enough funds aren't pledged to combat the ripple effects of coronavirus pandemic on the world's most fragile countries, which are already grappling with food insecurity.

"What we face now's a double pandemic ... [of] famines that would impact us at biblical proportions," WFP's executive David Beasley said during a conference in Geneva on Thursday.

Beasley said the UN's food agency helps nearly 100 million people on any given day and "unless we will keep those essential operations going, the health pandemic will soon be followed by a hunger pandemic".

"There's no doubt . Mega-famines are on our brink literally immediately ," he said.

"Before COVID-19 hit the scene, we already had 135 million people, as I say, marching on the brink of starvation. That's additionally to the 821 million folks that are chronically hungry."

Meanwhile, the UN on Thursday issued a replacement appeal for $4.7bn in funding to "protect many lives and stem the spread of coronavirus in fragile countries".

The money is on top of the $2bn that the UN already involved when it launched its global humanitarian response plan on Annunciation . it's received about half that cash thus far .

The updated appeal included nine additional vulnerable countries: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone , Togo and Zimbabwe.

COVID-19 infections are expected to peak within the world's poorest countries within the next three to 6 months, consistent with UN estimates.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the planet Health Organization, said the caseload in most of the developing countries targeted for assistance within the UN appeal "may seem small, but we all know that the surveillance, laboratory testing and health systems' capacity in these countries are weak".

"It is therefore likely that there's undetected community transmission happening," he said.

UN agencies are trying to make a coordinated, global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The most devastating and destabilising effects" of the novel coronavirus pandemic "will be felt within the world's poorest countries," the UN's head of humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock, said during a statement.

"Unless we take action now, we should always be prepared for a big rise in conflict, hunger and poverty. The spectre of multiple famines looms," he warned.

UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi also said the impact of the pandemic on people that fled wars and persecution "has been devastating".

He said the requirements of refugees, people displaced in their own countries, stateless people and their hosts "are vast but not insurmountable".

"Only collective action to curb the threat of the coronavirus can save lives," he said.

Lowcock, the humanitarian chief, said the pandemic "is unlike anything we've addressed in our lifetime".

"Extraordinary measures are needed," he said. "As we close to combat this virus, I urge donors to act in both solidarity and in self-interest and make their response proportionate to the size of the matter we face."

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