COLOMBO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) began distributing food vouchers to pregnant women in underserved districts of Colombo on June 16, marking the start of the U.N. World Food Programme’s emergency response in the country. The U.N. World Food Programme is working to provide lifesaving food, cash and voucher assistance to 3 million of the most vulnerable people who can no longer meet their food needs due to Sri Lanka’s unprecedented economic crisis.

The monthly vouchers are valued at $40 and will enable more than 2,000 women to buy food. The vouchers are delivered alongside prenatal care provided by the Public Health Division of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).

Food inflation in Colombo set a record high of 57.4% in May, and widespread shortages of fuel for cooking and transport mean families living in poverty are struggling to afford food. Nearly 5 million people, or 22% of the Sri Lankan population, are hungry and in need of assistance. Nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruits and protein-rich products are now out of reach for many low-income families. The U.N. World Food Programme’s recent surveys indicated 86% of families are resorting to at least one coping mechanism including eating less, eating less nutritious food and even skipping meals altogether.

“Pregnant mothers need to eat nutritious meals every day, but the poorest find it harder and harder to afford the basics. When they skip meals they’re putting their and their children’s health at risk,” said Anthea Webb, U.N. World Food Programme deputy regional director for Asia and the Pacific from Colombo.

“Poor families in cities and those who work on estates have seen their incomes plummet while market prices have soared. Each day that passes sees an increase in food and fuel prices globally, making it vital that we act now,” she noted.

The U.N. World Food Programme has long supported the Sri Lankan government’s national nutrition programs, but they are severely constrained by the economic crisis. To bolster existing social safety net programs, the U.N. World Food Programme’s emergency response program aims to assist:

  • 1 million children through the national school meal program
  • 1 million people participating in the Thriposha program, which provides nutritionally-fortified food to mothers and children
  • 1 million people in need of emergency food rations through food, cash or vouchers

The U.N. World Food Programme’s response is part of the Humanitarian Needs and Priorities Plan launched by the United Nations in Sri Lanka on June 9, which called for $47 million to provide lifesaving assistance to 1.7 million people through September. Given its concern that food and nutrition needs will persist beyond September, the U.N. World Food Programme estimates it will require $60 million to assist 3 million people from June through December 2022.

Existing donors to the U.N. World Food Programme’s Sri Lanka program include Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Japan, Korea, Mastercard, Russia, Switzerland, United Nations Peacebuilding Fund and the United States.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @wfp_media and @WFPSriLanka

CAIRO – The war in Ukraine has dealt a fresh hammer blow to Syria’s ability to feed itself just as the country struggles to deal with levels of hunger that are up by half since 2019, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said prior to an annual donor pledging conference held in Brussels.

With years of conflict, a severe economic downturn and food prices rising relentlessly since 2020, the Ukraine crisis is exacerbating what was already an alarming food security scenario in Syria. In March, food prices increased by 24% in just one month, following an 800% increase in the last two years. This has brought food prices to their highest level since 2013.

“Saying that the situation in Syria is alarming is a huge understatement. The heart-breaking reality for millions of Syrian families is that they don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley. “The international community must recognize that not taking action now will inevitably lead to a catastrophic future for Syrians. They deserve our immediate and unconditional support.”

Some 12 million people in Syria – more than half the population – currently face acute food insecurity. That is 51% more than in 2019 and an additional 1.9 million are at risk of sliding into hunger. With basic meals becoming a luxury for millions, nutrition is becoming a serious issue.

Data from 2021 shows that one in eight children in Syria suffers from stunting while pregnant and nursing mothers show record levels of acute wasting. Both facts point to devastating health consequences for future generations.

Plagued by continual crises for over a decade, Syrian families have exhausted their ability to cope. As last resort measures, people are turning to extreme measures, such as child labor, early and forced marriages, and the removal of children from school.

Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Programme’s resources are under more pressure than ever, and funding is not keeping pace with the staggering needs of people across the country. Over time, the U.N. World Food Programme has been forced to progressively reduce the size of the monthly food ration across the country. A 13% ration cut is looming this month in Northwest Syria, where people will start receiving food that translates into 1,177 kilocalories, just over half of the recommended daily intake.

The U.N. World Food Programme is 27% funded until October, with a shortfall of $595 million. Additional funding is urgently needed to continue to assist millions of people across the country. Without new funding, the U.N. World Food Programme could be forced to undertake additional drastic cuts in the coming months.

“In a year of unprecedented needs, the compounding effect of the war in Ukraine requires our donors to step in and help us avoid reducing rations or the cutting the number of people we assist,” emphasized Beasley.

Support from donors has allowed the U.N. World Food Programme to help millions of vulnerable Syrians obtain food when they have needed it most. Each month the U.N. World Food Programme distributes lifesaving food to 5.6 million people, injects around $3 million into local economy through cash-based transfers (CBT), provides fortified date bars, fresh meals and/or food vouchers to schoolchildren, and provides nutritional support to women who have recently given birth or will do soon.

“If I knew my life would end up like this, I wouldn’t have had my children; I would have saved them all this suffering,” said one mother in the western Syrian city of Hama.

DAMASCUS/BEIRUT – United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley has warned that more Syrians are in the grip of hunger today than at any time during their country’s decade-long conflict, blaming a deadly combination of conflict, climate change, COVID and rising food and fuel costs.

During a three-day visit to the country, Beasley met with vulnerable families receiving U.N. World Food Programme food assistance in Aleppo. Mothers he spoke to in nutrition and food distribution centers complained about the skyrocketing food prices and described the hard choices they must make to survive.

A mother of four children, Hanan, whom Beasley met in Aleppo, described her daily struggles: “We are tired, worn out and now hungry too as the economic situation takes its toll,” she said. “I have not been able to get any fresh food, dairy or eggs for my children for the last four months. I have to make difficult decisions, like deciding which of my children should eat on the basis of who is most fragile and sick or who will slip into severe malnutrition if not fed today.”

Some 12.4 million people — almost 60 percent of the population — are now hungry and do not know where their next meal will come from. This is a 57 percent increase since 2019 and the highest number ever recorded in the history of Syria.

Syria’s agricultural sector struggles to produce enough to meet the population’s needs and food prices across the country reached record highs in September. Compared to just one year ago, the price of a basket of staple foods has more than doubled and is now beyond the reach of millions of families. Record lows both in levels of rainfall and in the level of the Euphrates are affecting 3.4 million people as governorates producing wheat and barley report significant losses.

“Conflict, climate change, COVID-19 and now the cost of living are pushing people beyond their limits,” Beasley said. “Mothers are telling me that with the upcoming winter they are caught between a rock and a hard place. They either feed their children, and let them freeze, or keep them warm and let them go hungry. They cannot afford both fuel and food.”

The impact of the financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon and the decline in the value of the Syrian pound compounded by the long-term impact of COVID-19 have all contributed to Syria’s economic downturn, pushing millions of people, already weakened by 10 years of conflict and displacement, into hunger, desperation and extreme poverty.

The U.N. World Food Programme is assisting over five million people with food assistance across Syria every month. But the agency faces severe funding constraints and was recently forced to reduce the size of the monthly food ration that families receive. The U.N. World Food Programme is only 31 percent funded and urgently requires close to $480 million for the next six months.

“History has shown us that if we do not help people before they become destitute, they will take drastic measures and we will see mass migration,” Beasley warned. “It is cheaper to help people where they are than to do so after they have fled their homes and became refugees in other places. We need the resources to be able to save lives and stabilize the situation.”

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @WFP_MENA

KHARTOUM – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for $24.6 million to meet the immediate needs of Ethiopian refugees seeking safety in Sudan. The conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia that escalated on November 4 has forced more than 30,000 Ethiopians to flee across the border into Sudan.

“We were in our town, doing our jobs, when we heard a huge explosion and started to flee to the Sudanese border. The event was abrupt, and no one even has money in their pockets. Many departed from their families and now they don’t know where they are,” said Dejen Fantay, a 25-year-old refugee in Um Rakuba Camp in Gedaref State.

“I want to thank the Sudanese Government, local authorities, the U.N. World Food Programme and other organizations helping to support us to survive here,” he added.”

As of 19 November, UNHCR estimates that over 31,000 people had arrived in Sudan and were in urgent need of food and other support. People continue to stream into the country every day from Ethiopia, and estimates suggest that up to 200,000 people could take refuge in eastern Sudan in the coming six months if instability in Tigray continues.

“The humanitarian situation on the border between Ethiopia and Sudan is quickly deteriorating and is extremely urgent. The U.N. World Food Programme is playing a critical role in providing food and logistics support together with UN agencies, the Sudanese Government and local partners,” said Dr. Hameed Nuru, U.N. World Food Programme Representative and Country Director in Sudan.

“All actors need to step up to respond to this dire situation. We appeal to donors to give generously, so that we can save lives in this crisis,” he added.

The U.N. World Food Programme is providing hot meals for refugees arriving at reception centers. Where cooking facilities are not available, the U.N. World Food Programme supplies fortified high-energy biscuits. Once refugees reach the camps after passing through reception centers, they receive rations including lentils, sorghum, oil and salt.

The U.N. World Food Programme is also providing logistics support to the humanitarian community – establishing supply hubs for the storage of food and other vital humanitarian assistance. The U.N. World Food Programme is also playing a critical role in transporting humanitarian responders to the affected areas on the U.N. World Food Programme-managed UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).

The U.N. World Food Programme has rapidly dispatched enough food supplies to feed 60,000 people for one month. However, the food had to be borrowed from existing program. The influx of new arrivals will strain the U.N. World Food Programme’s ability to respond to existing needs in Sudan as it deals with multiple crises throughout the country.

The U.N. World Food Programme faces a shortfall of $153 million over the next six months for its operation to meet the food needs of the most vulnerable in Sudan, including $20 million to provide food and nutrition assistance to arriving Ethiopian refugees, $3.8 million to increase the number of UNHAS flights to eastern Sudan, and $750,000 for road repairs to allow responders to reach remote and inaccessible areas where refugees are arriving.

The additional funding is essential to ensure that food insecure people, who are at their most vulnerable, can receive continuous support over the next six months.

Broadcast quality footage is available here, photos available here.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change. | Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA @wfp_media @WFP_Africa @WFP_Sudan

For more information, contact:

Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York, Mob. + 1 929 289 9867,
Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington, Mob.  +1 202 770 5993,


ROME – A basic meal is far beyond the reach of millions of people in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic joins conflict, climate change and economic troubles in pushing up levels of hunger around the world, according to a new study released today by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

The U.N. World Food Program’s Cost of a Plate of Food 2020 report highlights the countries where a simple meal such as rice and beans costs the most, when compared with people’s incomes. South Sudan is once again top of the list, with basic ingredients costing a staggering 186 percent of a person’s daily income. Seventeen of the top 20 countries featured in the index are in sub-Saharan Africa.

“This new report exposes the destructive impact of conflict, climate change and economic crises, now compounded by COVID-19, in driving up hunger,” said U.N. World Food Program’s Executive Director David Beasley. “It’s the most vulnerable people who feel the worst effects. Their lives were already on the edge – prior to the coronavirus pandemic we were looking at the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II – and now their plight is so much worse as the pandemic threatens nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe.”

The report highlights conflict as a central driver for hunger in many countries, as it forced people from their homes, land and jobs, drastically reducing incomes and the availability of affordable food. The close connection between food security and peace was underlined last week when the U.N. World Food Programme was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work fighting hunger.

In the country with the most expensive plate of food, South Sudan, violence in the east has already displaced more than 60,000 people and is crippling harvests and livelihoods. This has combined with COVID-19 and climate shock to create the threat of famine.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the daily income spent on food by someone living in South Sudan has risen 27 points to 186 percent.

If a resident in New York State had to pay the same proportion of their salary for a basic meal, the meal would cost $393.

The Cost of a Plate of Food 2020 report is released as the U.N. World Food Programme estimates that the lives and livelihoods of up to 270 million people will be under severe threat in 2020, unless immediate action is taken to tackle the pandemic.

Burkina Faso is featured for the first time, with a surge in conflict along with climate changes, being the main drivers.  The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger has tripled to 3.4 million people, while famine threatens 11,000 living in the northern provinces. Burundi is also on the index, as political instability, steep declines in remittances and disruptions to trade and employment leave it exposed to growing hunger.

Haiti is also featured among the top 20, with consumers spending more than a third of their daily incomes on a plate of food – the equivalent of $74 for someone in New York State. Imports account for more than half of food and 83 percent of rice consumed in Haiti, making it vulnerable to inflation and price volatility in international markets, especially during crises such as the current global pandemic.

“People in urban areas are now highly susceptible too, with COVID-19 leading to huge rises in unemployment, rendering people powerless to use the markets they depend on for food. For millions of people, missing a day’s wages means missing a day’s worth of food, for themselves and their children. This can also cause rising social tensions and instability,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director Beasley.

U.N. World Food Programme support includes providing food and cash assistance, and helping governments extend their own safety nets. In South Sudan, on top of regular assistance to 5 million people, the U.N. World Food Programme will assist an additional 1.6 million – mostly in urban settings.

In the longer term, effective food systems are essential for access to affordable, nutritious food. The U.N. World Food Programme’s procurement of food means it has a critical role to play in improving the systems that produce food and bring it to people’s tables.

This is the third edition of the U.N. World Food Programme’s Cost of a Plate of Food report (formerly called Counting the Beans) with 36 countries featured this year. The report takes an estimated per capita average income across each country and calculates what percentage people must spend for a basic meal, some beans or lentils for example, and a carbohydrate matching local preferences. The price someone in New York State might pay was calculated by applying the meal-to-income ratio for someone in a developing country to a consumer in the US State.

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Photos available here

The U.N. World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @wfp_media

For more information, contact: 

Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York, Mob. + 1 929 289 9867
Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington, Mob.  +1 202 770 5993

TRIPOLI/TUNIS – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are expanding their support for food insecure refugees and asylum seekers in Libya with emergency food assistance in response to the severe socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country as well as the effects of the ongoing conflict.

The two agencies will expand their partnership, launched in June, to provide food support for people in areas outside of Tripoli, including Zawiya, Misrata, Benghazi and Zwara, as well as continuing in Tripoli.

Coronavirus infections have surged in the country, rising from 200 reported cases in June to nearly 28,000 cases.  COVID-19 related movement restrictions and curfews, as well as the ongoing conflict and economic crisis, have led to sharp increases in food prices, while making it hard for most refugees and asylum seekers to find daily work to support themselves.

According to the latest Joint Market Monitoring Initiative, the cost of a minimum expenditure basket that would meet a family’s basic needs, including food items, was 19.2% more expensive in August than in March, when the first coronavirus cases were reported in Libya. Cooking fuel prices increased by 66.7% in August compared to the previous month.

“The situation is getting worse by the day. Many people can’t access food for a number of reasons including prices going up and limited food availability. At the same time, there are almost no opportunities to work,” said U.N. World Food Programme Representative and Country Director in Libya Samer AbdelJaber. “This is exhausting people’s ability to continue to cope with the growing pressures. At times like these, when meeting basic needs becomes increasingly hard, food support becomes even more of an imperative.”

People will be receiving locally produced ready-to-eat food which supports the local economy. This food assistance does not require any cooking, which helps people at a time when cooking fuel prices are soaring.

The micronutrient-dense, ready-to-eat emergency food packages, providing enough food for one month, include hummus, canned beans, canned tuna, halawa (Middle Eastern spread made with sesame seed paste and sugar) and date bars. Each package covers 53 percent of the daily caloric requirement of a healthy person (around 1,100 calories).

Food needs in the new focus areas for support were verified through U.N. World Food Programme rapid needs assessments.  They showed that, on average, one out of two respondents had a poor or borderline food consumption score. A majority of the respondents reported significantly higher frequency of using negative coping strategies, such as skipping meals to adapt to food scarcity. 73 percent of respondents reported not having any food at home, while 69 percent had no money to buy food over the last month.

“The coronavirus pandemic affected our daily meals,” said Bashir, a 29-year-old refugee from Sudan who came to Libya to work as a daily laborer, and was among those interviewed. “There’s no work anymore, so there is no money. We have not been able to pay for food. Some days, if we can borrow a dinar, we buy bread just to fill our stomachs. That is the food we survive on.”

Both agencies have reported increases in requests for food assistance over the past few months. During the U.N. World Food Programme Country Director’s July virtual meetings with mayors throughout Libya, food was listed as a top need in every conversation, with accompanying requests of additional assistance. In Libya, the U.N. World Food Programme also supports crisis-affected internally displaced people (IDPs), returnees, and non-displaced populations including host communities and school children.

Among those who will continue to be assisted under the joint agency food assistance project are refugees and asylum seekers recently released from detention centers. More than 20 people, including minors, were provided with assistance earlier this month after being released from Triq al Sikka detention center. This type of assistance supports alternative solutions to detention by helping to meet people’s basic needs outside of the centers.

“The help we provide under this project is lifesaving,” said UNHCR’s chief of Mission Jean-Paul Cavalieri. “It’s especially crucial for those just released from detention, who struggle initially to support themselves in urban settings.”

The expanded food distributions, supported by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF Africa), began over the weekend at a U.N. World Food Programme distribution point in Zawiya. An additional 6,000 refugees and asylum seekers will be reached in this second phase, with 10,000 people targeted with assistance through the end of this year.

U.N. World Food Programme and UNHCR staff, as well as their partners, will continue to ensure COVID-19 precautionary measures, such as personal protection equipment, social distancing, disinfection and enhanced crowd controls, are in place for the distributions.

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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We deliver life-saving assistance like shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. | Follow them on Twitter @UNHCRLibya

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change. | Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @WFP_MENA and @SamerWFP


Tripoli: Caroline Gluck +218 91000 7195
Tunis: Tarik Argaz +216 299 61295
Geneva: Charlie Yaxley +41 79 580 8702

Tunis/Tripoli: Flavia Brunetti +216 58558309
Cairo: Abeer Etefa +201 0666 3435 2

Transcript of remarks as delivered by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley to today’s virtual session of the UN Security Council on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (segment on food security risks in DRC, Yemen, Northeast Nigeria and South Sudan).

NEW YORK – Five months ago, I warned the Council the world stood on the brink of a hunger pandemic. A toxic combination of conflict, climate change and COVID-19, threatened to push 270 million people to the brink of starvation. Famine was real. It’s a terrifying possibility in up to three dozen countries if we don’t continue to act like we’ve been acting.

Fortunately, since we talked about this back in April the world really listened. Donors, leaders all over the word responded, they acted. Countries large and small took extraordinary measures to save the lives of their citizens and support their economies, spending $17 trillion on fiscal stimulus and central bank support. The IMF and the G20 nations threw a lifeline to the poorest nations by suspending debt repayments. That made a huge impact. Donors stepped up with advanced funding so we could pre-position food and move cargo earlier, as well as supporting with additional life-saving dollars. With our donors’ help, the global humanitarian community launched a huge and unprecedented global fightback against the Coronavirus.

Along with our partners, the UN World Food Programme is going all-out to reach as many as 138 million people this year – the biggest scale-up in our history. Already, in the first six months of 2020, we’ve reached 85 million people.

The UN World Food Programme is doing what we do best – adapting and innovating to meet the unique demands of the pandemic. Launching new food and cash programs to support the hungry in urban areas. Supporting over 50 governments to scale up their safety nets and social protection programs for the most vulnerable. Getting nutritious food to millions of school children shut out of the classroom during lockdown.

Every day, we are succeeding – because of you – in keeping people alive and avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe. But we’re not out of the woods.

This fight is far, far, far from over – the 270 million people marching toward the brink of starvation need our help today more than ever.

We’re doing just about all we can do to stop the dam from bursting. But, without the resources we need, a wave of hunger and famine still threatens to sweep across the globe. And if it does, it will overwhelm nations and communities already weakened by years of conflict and instability.

This Council made a historic decision when it endorsed Resolution 2417 and condemned the human cost of conflict paid in suffering and hunger. The resolution called for effective early warning systems and, once more, I am here with my colleagues to sound the alarm.

Excellencies, the global hunger crisis caused by conflict, and now compounded by COVID-19, is moving into a new and dangerous phase – especially in nations already scarred by violence. The threat of famine is looming again, so we have to step up, not step back. Quite frankly, 2021 will be a make-or-break year.

Financially, 2020 was a record year for the UN World Food Programme. We hit $8 billion for the first time ever – but our budget was set before the pandemic hit. Economies were strong. Reserve and emergency funds were available. But now, I am truly worried about what will happen next year. I know your governments are spending billions on domestic stimulus packages. National budgets are tight, and reserves are running low if not out. And, economies are shrinking. But I urge you – don’t walk away from our commitment to humanitarian assistance. Don’t turn your backs on the world’s hungriest people.

As COVID-19 pushed countries everywhere to lock down, the equivalent of 400 million full-time jobs have been destroyed, and remittances have collapsed. The impact has been felt hardest by the 2 billion people who work in the informal economy around the world – mainly in middle and low-income countries. They were already only one day’s work away from going hungry, in other words living hand to mouth. You and I have food in the pantry in a lockdown. We have enough food for two or three weeks. These people don’t have that luxury. If they miss a day’s wages, they miss a day’s worth of food and their children suffer.  They don’t have the money to buy their daily bread in those circumstances. This inevitably creates a risk of rising social tensions and instability.

It is critically important we balance sensible measures to contain the spread of the virus, with the need to keep borders open and supply chains going and trade flows moving. We also have to be vigilant and guard against unintended consequences, which could hit the poorest people the hardest. In fact, in the 80-odd countries that we’re in, we’re working with the presidents, the prime ministers, the ministers of government, literally on an hourly basis, dealing with issues that are popping up because of quarantines and lockdowns at distribution points. We’re all learning from this and making headway.

But let me just give you a couple of examples, because a lot of people thought that the virus would be even more deadly in Africa, and it is definitely impacting Africa. We’re not out of the woods yet. But the good news is: It hasn’t been as deadly, but it has been devastating in other ways. For example, the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine has analyzed the closure of vaccination clinics in Africa during lockdown. It calculated that, for every COVID-19 death prevented, as many as 80 children may die due to a lack of routine immunizations.

There is a grave danger that many more people will die from the broader economic and social consequences of COVID-19 than from the virus itself, especially in Africa. And the last thing we need is to have the cure be worse than the disease itself.

Your continued support for humanitarian programs is critical right now. It’s a matter of life and death – literally – for millions of people in the countries being discussed today, and for many millions more in the other countries edging closer to the brink of starvation. We know that, already, there are 30 million people who rely solely on the UN World Food Programme for their survival. That’s the only food they get. If they don’t get the food we provide, they die.

Let me turn to the countries on today’s agenda. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conflict and instability had already forced 15.5 million people into crisis levels of food insecurity. These are people on the brink of starvation. The latest assessment indicates that the upsurge in violence, coupled with COVID-19, has sent this total sky-rocketing to nearly 22 million people, an increase of 6.5 million people. And I should warn you these numbers assume the UN World Food Programme is able to maintain current levels of food assistance. If we are forced to scale back operations, the outlook is even worse.

In Yemen, the world’s worst catastrophe, the worst human disaster, it continues…years of conflict-induced hunger and now the COVID-19 pandemic. 20 million people are already in crisis due to war, a collapsed economy and currency devaluation, crippling food prices and the destruction of public infrastructure. We believe a further 3 million may now face starvation due to the virus.

Because of a lack of funding, 8.5 million of our beneficiaries in Yemen now only receive assistance every other month. We will be forced to cut rations for the remaining 4.5 million by December if funds do not increase. You can only imagine the impact that will have on the Yemeni people.

The decision by the Ansar Allah authorities to close Sana’a International Airport last week has made an already impossible situation worse. As the only airport in northern Yemen, it is a critical access point for humanitarian staff.  The inability to move people in and out will hamper our efforts to stave off famine.

The alarm bells in Yemen are ringing loud and clear, and the world needs to open its eyes to the Yemeni people’s desperate plight before famine takes hold. And that famine is knocking on the door right before our eyes.

In Nigeria, COVID-19 is also forcing more people into food insecurity. Analysis shows measures imposed to contain the virus reduced incomes in 80 percent of households. You can imagine the devastation with that alone.

In the northeast of the country, 4.3 million people are food insecure, up by 600,000 largely due to COVID-19. While in the large urban area of Kano, the number of food insecure people during that lockdown period from March to June went from 568,000 to 1.5 million people – an increase of 1 million people. Very troubling.

In South Sudan, the outlook is similarly worrying, where even before the pandemic, 6.5 million people were expected to face severe food insecurity at the height of the lean season, made worse by the violence in Jonglei State in recent months. This has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians, a large number of abducted women and children, and widespread loss of livestock and livelihoods. In addition, virus outbreaks in urban areas such as Juba could put as many as another 1.6 million people at risk of starvation.

Finally, even though it is not on today’s agenda, I also want to highlight the disaster unfolding in Burkina Faso, driven by the upsurge in violence. The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger has tripled to 3.3 million people, as COVID compounds the situation…displacement, security and access problems. For 11,000 of these people living in the northern provinces, famine is knocking on the door as we speak.

Excellencies, we know what we need to do. We have made huge strides forward in spotting the early warning signs of famine, in understanding its causes and consequences. But, tragically, we have seen this story play out too many times before. The world stands by until it is too late, while hunger kills, it stokes community tensions, fuels conflict and instability, and forces families from their homes.

I recently learned that, in Latin America, hungry families have started hanging white flags outside their houses to show they need help. And there are a lot of them: 17.1 million severely food insecure people today, compared with 4.5 million only six or seven months ago.

A white flag is the sign of surrender – of giving up. Well, we cannot and we must not surrender, or tell ourselves there is nothing we can do, because millions of people around the world desperately need our help.

The truth is, we are all out of excuses for failing to act – swiftly and decisively – while children, women and men starve to death. Today, as humanitarians, we are here to warn you of the pressures caused by conflict and COVID-19. We must act and we must act before the dam bursts.

There is hope amid the turmoil. We’ve seen some bright light in the last few weeks. The peace agreement signed in Sudan and in the Middle East in the last couple of weeks gives us some hope, because peace is the key to all of this. And this is what the Resolution 2417 is all about.

We need everyone on board. And so, Mr. President, the governments are strapped, people are strapped financially. It’s time for the private sector to step up.

Quite frankly, you may wonder why I am bringing this up at the Security Council. But I will take every opportunity I get to sound the alarm before it is too late.

We need $4.9 billion to feed, for one year, all 30 million people who will die without the UN World Food Programme’s assistance.

Worldwide, there are over 2,000 billionaires with a net worth of $8 trillion. In my home country, the USA, there are 12 individuals alone worth $1 trillion. In fact, reports state that three of them made billions upon billions during COVID! I am not opposed to people making money, but humanity is facing the greatest crisis any of us have seen in our lifetimes.

It’s time for those who have the most to step up, to help those who have the least in this extraordinary time in world history. To show you truly love your neighbor. The world needs you right now and it’s time to do the right thing.

For photos, click here.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change. | Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @wfp_media

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