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Billions needed to avert unrest and famine, says UN food chief


Without billions more dollars to feed millions of hungry people, the world will see mass migration, destabilized countries and starving children and adults in the next 12 to 18 months, the head of the World Food Program warned on Friday. United Nations, Nobel laureate.

David Beasley hailed increased funding from the United States and Germany last year and urged China, Gulf countries, billionaires and others “to step up their efforts”.

In an interview ahead of handing the reins of the world’s largest humanitarian organization to US Ambassador Cindy McCain next week, the former South Carolina governor said he was “extremely concerned” that the WFP would lift not about $23 billion it needs this year to help millions of people. people in need

“At this point, I’d be surprised if we get 40%, quite frankly,” he said.

Last year, Beasley raised $14.2 billion for the WFP, more than double the $6 billion in 2017, the year he took over as executive director. This money has helped more than 128 million people in more than 120 countries and territories.

Beasley said he was able to convince the United States last year to increase its funding from about $3.5 billion to $7.4 billion and Germany to increase its contribution by $350. million a few years ago to $1.7 billion, but he doesn’t think they will. again this year.

Other countries must now step up their efforts, he said, starting with China, the world’s second-largest economy which gave the WFP just $11 million last year.

Beasley praised China for its success in substantially reducing hunger and poverty in his country, but said it had given less than a cent per person last year compared to the United States, the world’s largest economy, which gave about 22 dollars per person.

China must “engage in the multilateral world” and be willing to provide essential assistance, he said. “They have a moral obligation to do so.”

Beasley said they’ve done “an amazing job of feeding their people” and “now we need their help in other parts of the world” on how they’ve done it, especially in the poorest countries. poorest, including in Africa.

With high oil prices, Gulf countries can also do more, especially Muslim countries that have relations with countries in East Africa, the Sahara and elsewhere in the Middle East, he said. he said, expressing the hope that they will increase their contributions.

Beasley said the wealthiest billionaires have made unprecedented profits during the Covid-19 pandemic, and ‘it’s not too much to ask of some of the multi-billionaires to step in and help us through the short-term crisis’ , even if charity is not a long-term solution to the food crisis.

In the long term, he said what he would really like to see are billionaires who use their experience and success to engage “in the world’s greatest need – and that’s food on the planet. to feed 8 billion people.

“The world needs to understand that the next 12 to 18 months are critical, and if we cut funding, you’ll have mass migration, and you’ll have destabilizing nations and all of that will add up to starvation among children and people. around the world,” he warned.

Beasley said the WFP had just been forced to cut rations by 50% to 4 million people in Afghanistan, and “these are people knocking on the door of starvation now.”

“We don’t have enough money to reach the most vulnerable people now,” he said. “So we’re in a cliff-stage crisis right now, where we could literally have hell on earth if we’re not very careful.”

Beasley said he told Western and European leaders that while they were focusing on Ukraine and Russia, “you better not forget what’s to the south and southeast of you. , because I can assure you that it happens to you if you don’t ‘pay attention’ and take over.

With $400 trillion in wealth on the planet, he said, there is no reason for a child to starve.

The WFP executive director said leaders must prioritize the humanitarian needs that will have the greatest impact on the stability of societies around the world.

As he returns to his family in South Carolina, Beasley said his dream remains to end world hunger.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.