- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The number of people around the world who are facing food shortages could double this year as the world grapples with the economic implications of the coronavirus outbreak.

The United Nations-backed World Food Programme on Tuesday said that 265 million people could see acute food insecurity, multiplying the roughly 135 million who are currently facing shortages.

“COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread,” Arif Husain, WFP’s chief economist and director of research, assessment and monitoring, told reporters during a virtual press conference.

“We all need to come together to deal with this because if we don’t the cost will be too high, the global cost will be too high,” he said. “Many lost lives and many, many more lost livelihoods.”

The WFP’s estimate comes in the wake of a study released by global poverty fund Oxfam that said the financial implications from the coronavirus pandemic could set back the global poverty fight by up to 30 years.

Major hits to economies from travel and restrictions linked to efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are expected to push an additional 130 million into hunger this year.

Experts are focused on populations they had previously been concerned about, with many living under governments with weak or nonexistent government security, and have warned that countries in Africa will be particularly hard hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic.

There have been 14,683 confirmed coronavirus cases across the African region, according to data from the World Health Organization. About 700 people have died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, and more than 4,000 have recovered.

There are 1.3 billion people living across the African region.

“These were the people we were concerned about, those who were okay before COVID and now they are not,” Mr. Husain said.

He said the WFP will need roughly $11 billion to fund its food assistance programs this year, compared to the $8.3 billion it raised last year.

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