Famines created by the food instability created in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak could take hold of "about three dozen countries," said David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) at the United Nations. Many of the countries in danger already have at least a million people in starvation already. The worst case scenarios have up to 130 million people pushed to the brink of starvation. The countries most likely to be affected are Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti.
"While dealing with a Covid-19 pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic," David Beasley told the UN's security council. "There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of Covid-19 than from the virus itself."
Many of these countries have already been deeply affected by conflict, an economic recession, a decline in aid and a collapse in oil prices. These countries often don't have adequate health care systems in place to deal with the outbreaks. To date, more than 2.5 million cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed globally.
"These countries may face an excruciating trade-off between saving lives or livelihoods or, in a worst-case scenario, saving people from the coronavirus to have them die from hunger," the report said.
"The loss of tourism receipts will damage countries such as Ethiopia (and) the collapsing oil prices in lower-income countries like South Sudan will have an impact significantly," he added.
Beasley appealed to UN member states to act now, telling them: "There are no famines yet. But I must warn you that if we don't prepare and act now -- to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls and disruptions to trade -- we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.
"The truth is, we do not have time on our side, so let's act wisely -- and let's act fast," he added. "I do believe that with our expertise and partnerships, we can bring together the teams and the programs necessary to make certain the Covid-19 pandemic does not become a humanitarian and food crisis catastrophe."