2021 to be worse than 2020, warns Nobel food agency

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TANZANIA – World Food Program chief says the Nobel Peace Prize winner gave the United Nations agency a projector and a megaphone to warn world leaders that next year is going to be worse than this year, and without billion dollars “we are going to have famines of biblical proportions in 2021.” David Beasley said in an interview with The Associated Press that the Norwegian Nobel Committee reviews the agency’s day-to-day work in conflicts, disasters and refugee camps, often putting the lives of employees at risk to feed millions. of hungry people – but also to send “a message to the world that things are getting worse there … (and) that our hardest work is yet to come”.

“It was so timely because we fought to get over the chorus,” Beasley said of last month’s award, noting that the news was dominated by the US election and the COVID-19 pandemic, and the difficulty of attracting the world’s attention. on “the parody we are faced with in the world”.

“So it was truly a gift from above,” said Beasley, recalling the surprise and joy of the 20,000 WFP staff around the world, and his own shock at being interrupted at a meeting in Niger. in the Sahel region of Africa with the news.

Beasley recalled his warning to the UN Security Council in April that, as the world faced the coronavirus pandemic, it was also “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” which could lead to “multiple famines of biblical proportions ”within a few months if no immediate action is taken.

“We were able to avoid it in 2020… because world leaders responded with money, stimulus packages, debt deferral,” he said.

Now, Beasley said, COVID-19 is on the rise again, economies continue to deteriorate, especially in low- and middle-income countries, and there is another wave of lockdowns and closures.

But he said the money available in 2020 will not be available in 2021, so he used the Nobel to meet with leaders virtually and in person, speak to parliaments and make speeches to raise awareness of those in power. we are facing – crises that are really going to be extraordinary over the next 12-18 months, who knows. ”

“Everyone now wants to meet the Nobel Peace Prize laureate,” Beasley said, explaining that he now has 45 minutes instead of 15 minutes with leaders and is able to dig deeper and deeper into explain how bad things are going to be next year and how leaders are going to have to prioritize programs. “And the response has been really good,” he said.

“I tell them that you are not going to have enough money to fund all the projects that you fund historically,” he said.

“These are important things,” Beasley said, but he likened the coming crisis to the Titanic, saying “for now we really need to focus on the icebergs, and the icebergs are famine, famine, destabilization. and migration. ”

Beasley said WFP needs $ 15 billion next year – $ 5 billion just to avert famine and $ 10 billion to carry out the agency’s global programs, including for children in pain. malnutrition and school meals which are often the only meals young people receive.

“If I could add this to our normal money, then we are avoiding famine in the world” and minimizing destabilization as well as migration. he said.

In addition to raising additional funds from governments, Beasley said, his other “big hope” is that the billionaires who made billions during the COVID-19 pandemic will step up on a one-time basis. He plans to start getting this message across probably in December or January.

In April, Beasley said 135 million people were facing “hunger crisis levels or worse”. A WFP analysis then showed that COVID

19 could push 130 million more people “to the brink of famine by the end of 2020”.

He said in Wednesday’s virtual interview from Rome, where WFP is based, that if famine has been averted this year, the number of people facing hunger crisis levels is rising to 270 million.

“There are about three dozen countries that could potentially go into famine conditions if we don’t have the money we need,” Beasley said.

According to a joint analysis by WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in October, 20 countries “risk facing potential spikes in acute food insecurity” in the next three to six months ” and require urgent attention ”.

Among these, Yemen, South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria and Burkina Faso have regions that “have reached critical hunger after years of conflict or other shocks,” said UN agencies, and any further deterioration in the coming months “could lead to a risk of famine.” ”

Other countries requiring “urgent attention” are Afghanistan, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Lebanon, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, they said.

Beasley said that a COVID-19 vaccine “will create some optimism which will hopefully help to jump-start economies around the world, especially Western economies. But the Executive Director of WFP said there had already been $ 17 billion in economic stimulus this year “and we are not going to have that globally. ”

“We are very, very, very concerned” about the resumption of deferred debt payments for low and middle income countries in January, new lockdowns and the cascading economic impact, “2021 is going to be a very bad year Said Beasley.

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