Knocking on the door of starvation: the UN food director wants to act now

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations food coordinator warned Thursday that the world was facing a “perfect storm on top of a perfect storm” and urged donors, especially Gulf states and billionaires, to give a few days of profits to tackle the fertilizer supply crisis. Now and prevent widespread food shortages next year.

Otherwise, there would be chaos all over the world,” World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Beasley said that when he took over the head of the World Food Program 5 and a half years ago, only 80 million people around the world were heading towards starvation. “And I’m thinking, OK, I can stop the World Food Program from working,” he said.

But climate problems have increased that number to 135 million. The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in early 2020, has doubled its number to 276 million people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Finally, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, sparking a war and a food, fertilizer, and energy crisis that brought the number to 345 million.

“Within that, there are 50 million people in 45 countries who are knocking on the door to starvation,” Beasley said. “If we don’t get to these people, you will suffer starvation, famine, destabilization of nations unlike anything we saw in 2007-2008 and 2011, and you will have mass migration.”

“We have to respond now.”

Paisley meets world leaders and talks about events during this week’s General Assembly of Leaders meeting to warn of the food crisis.

General Assembly President Tchapa Korosi noted in his opening speech on Tuesday that “we are living, it seems, in a permanent humanitarian emergency.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned of the spread of conflict and humanitarian crises, and the funding gap for UN humanitarian appeals is $32 billion – “the biggest gap ever”.

This year, Beasley said, the war has halted shipments of grain from Ukraine – a country that produces enough food to feed 400 million people – and sharply curtailed shipments from Russia, the world’s second-largest exporter of fertilizer and a major food producer.

Beasley said donor fatigue often undermines aid, particularly in countries in an ongoing crisis such as Haiti. Inflation is also a serious problem, raising prices and hitting the poor who have no ability to adapt because COVID-19 has “only destroyed them economically”.

He said that mothers are forced to make a decision: should they buy cooking oil and feed their children, or should they buy heating oil so that they do not freeze? Because there is not enough money to buy both.

“It’s a perfect storm on top of a perfect storm,” Beasley said. “And with the fertilizer crisis we’re having now, with the drought, we’re having the problem of food pricing in 2022. This has caused chaos all over the world.”

“If we don’t get over this quickly – and I don’t mean next year, I mean this year – you’re going to have a food availability problem in 2023,” he said. “That would be hell.”

Beasley explained that the world now produces enough food to feed more than 7.7 billion people in the world, but 50% of that food is due to farmers’ use of fertilizer. They can’t get those high returns without it. China, the world’s largest fertilizer producer, has banned its export. Russia, which ranks second, is struggling to bring it to world markets.

“We have to move this fertilizer, and we have to move it fast,” he said. “Asian rice production is in critical condition at the moment. The seeds are in the ground.”

In Africa, 33 million small farms feed more than 70% of the population, and right now “we are several billion dollars less than we need for fertilizer.” He said Central and South America is also facing drought and India has been affected by heat and drought. “It can go on,” he said.

He said the July deal to ship Ukrainian grain from three ports on the Black Sea is a start, but “we have to move the grain, we have to provide fertilizer for everyone, and we need to end the wars.”

The United States has contributed an additional $5 billion to food security, Beasley said, and Germany, France and the European Union have beefed up this. But he called on Gulf states to “hurry up even more” as oil prices rise, particularly to help countries in their region such as Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

“We’re not talking about asking for a trillion dollars here,” Beasley said. “We’re just talking about asking for a few days’ worth of your earnings to stabilize the world,” he said.

The head of the World Food Program said he also met a group of billionaires on Wednesday evening. He said he told them they had a “moral obligation” and “need to take care”.

“Even if you don’t give it to me, even if you don’t give it to the World Food Program, get in the game. Get into the game of loving your neighbor and helping your neighbor,” Beasley said. People suffer and die all over the world. When a child dies every five seconds of starvation, it’s a shame We “.

Edith M. Lederer is the Associated Press’s chief UN correspondent and has covered international affairs for more than half a century. For more AP coverage of the United Nations General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly

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