Areas in four countries – Yemen, South Sudan, Burkina Faso and Nigeria – are considered to be in the grip of famine by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) right now. WFP is concerned for an additional 34 million people who are fast approaching famine, precipitated in part by COVID-19.
WFP has responded to the threat and reality of famine for the past 60 years. Julie Marshall, Canadian Communications Officer, told Christian Courier that WFP is predicting an 80 percent increase in famine this year, from 149 million people pre-COVID-19 to 270 million people in 2021 in the 80 countries where WFP works. The greatest impact is expected to fall in Latin America as well as West, Central, and Southern Africa.
“Famine is driven by conflict and fuelled by climate shocks and the COVID-19,” said Marshall. “In the simplest terms, famine means that every day in an area suffering from long-term hunger and malnutrition, at least two out of every 10,000 people will die of starvation or disease – often mothers, the elderly and young children.”
On January 28 Pope Francis received David Beasely, the head of WFP, for a private audience to address world famine.
WFP emphasizes the importance of emergency food assistance, focusing on small farmers, school feeding and direct food or cash during crises.
“WFP needs US$5 billion in 2021 to avert famine and meet the urgent food and nutrition needs of at least 30 million people who are currently most at risk, but the price of doing nothing is exponentially higher,” said Marshall.
WFP is principally funded by over 60 governments. Beasely asked Pope Francis to join his appeal to billionaires who have grown wealthier through the COVID-19 pandemic to contribute to WFP.
Last March WFP opened an office in Ottawa. “Canada has been a vital partner for WFP working together to fight hunger around the world, in 2020 Canada was our 5th largest donor, contributing over US$244 million to our global programmes,” said Marshall. These funds have given WFP the flexibility to promote long-term solutions, making Canada “one of WFP’s most innovative partners.”