The UN food chief warned on Thursday that the world is facing “a perfect storm on top of a perfect storm” and urged donors, particularly Gulf nations and billionaires, to donate a few days of profits to weather a crisis with fertilizer supply now and avoid widespread food shortages next year.
“Otherwise there will be chaos across the world,” World Food Program executive director David Beasley said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Beasley said that when he took charge of WFP 5 and a half years ago, only 80 million people worldwide were starving. “And I’m thinking, ‘Well, I can end the World Food Program,’” he said.
But weather problems have increased that number to 135 million. The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in early 2020, has doubled to 276 million people not knowing where their next meal would come 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.
“Inside that is 50 million people in 45 countries knocking on the door of hunger,” Beasley said. “If we don’t reach these people, you’re going to have hunger, famine, destabilization of nations unlike anything we’ve seen in 2007-2008 and 2011, and you’re going to have mass migration.”
“We have to answer now.”
Beasley has been meeting with world leaders and speaking at events during this week’s General Assembly leaders’ meeting to raise awareness of the food crisis.
General Assembly President Csaba Korosi noted in his opening speech on Tuesday that “we live, it seems, in a permanent state of humanitarian emergency.” humanitarian appeals is $32 billion – “the biggest gap ever”.
This year, Beasley said, the war halted grain shipments from Ukraine — a nation that produces enough food to feed 400 million people — and drastically reduced shipments from Russia, the world’s second-biggest fertilizer exporter and a major food producer. .
Beasley said donor fatigue often hampers aid, particularly in crisis-ridden countries like Haiti. Inflation is also a serious problem, driving up prices and hitting poor people who are unable to cope because COVID-19 “just devastated them economically.”
So mothers, he said, are forced to decide: do they buy cooking oil and feed their children, or do they buy heating oil so it doesn’t freeze? Because there’s not enough money to buy them both.
“It’s a perfect storm on top of a perfect storm,” Beasley said. “And with the fertilizer crisis that we’re facing right now, with droughts, we’re facing a food price problem in 2022. That’s created havoc across the world.”
“If we don’t get this resolved 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. “And this is going to 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 because farmers used fertilizers. They cannot get these high yields without it. China, the world’s biggest fertilizer producer, has banned its export; Russia, which is number two, is struggling to get it to world markets.
“We have to move these fertilizers, and we need to move them quickly,” he said. “Asian rice production is in a critical state right now. The seeds are in the ground.”
In Africa, 33 million small farms feed more than 70% of the population, and now “we are several billion dollars short of what we need for fertilizers”. “It can go on and on,” he said.
He said the July deal to ship Ukrainian grain from three Black Sea ports is a start, but “we have to get the grain moving, we have to get the fertilizer to everyone and we have to end wars.”
Beasley said the United States has contributed an additional $5 billion to food security, and that Germany, France and the European Union are also stepping up. But he urged Gulf countries to “raise more” with oil prices so high, mainly to help countries in his region like Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.
“We’re not talking about asking for a trillion dollars here,” Beasley said. “We’re just talking about borrowing a few days of your profits to stabilize the world,” he said.
The WFP chief said he also met with a group of billionaires on Wednesday night. He said he told them they had “a moral obligation” and “need to care.”
“Even if you don’t give it to me, even if you don’t give it to the World Food Program, play the game. Get into the game of loving your neighbor and helping your neighbor,” Beasley said. “People are suffering and dying all over the world. When a child dies every five seconds from hunger, shame on us.”
Edith M. Lederer is chief UN correspondent for the Associated Press and has covered international affairs for more than half a century. For more UN General Assembly AP coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly