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COVID-19 brings the worst worldwide hunger crisis in decades - World Vision

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The world is facing a famine so devastating it could tip 10 million children into starvation - many of whom are already living a precarious existence in refugee camps, World Vision has warned.

More than 19 million people worldwide are at risk of famine from a deadly mix of COVID-19, conflict and natural disasters, a new report by the international organisation has found.

The Double Hardship report’s grim prediction equates to a 50 per cent rise in people at risk of starvation, compared with 2019, and constitutes the worst hunger crisis in decades.

World Vision has helped more than 6.4 million people with food assistance during COVID-19, but World Vision New Zealand’s National Director Grant Bayldon says aid agencies can’t battle the looming crisis in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa alone.

"COVID-19 has stoked a hunger crisis on a scale not seen in recent memory," he said. "It has heaped yet another layer of suffering on people living in conflict hotspots - many of whom are refugees. These people have been torn from their homes by war and conflict, languishing in camps for years. And now, they’re facing yet more challenges. That’s why we all need to come together to avert this new disaster in the world’s conflict hotspots. The last thing we want to see again is the tragic images of famine that came out of Ethiopia in the ‘80s - and believe me, that’s what we are facing."

Key findings from the report: - 20 countries are suffering severe food emergencies, with more than 19 million people at risk of famine - 235 million people worldwide will need lifesaving assistance in 2021 - an unprecedented increase of 40 per cent in just one year, according to UN estimates - 121 million more people were going to bed hungry by the end of 2020, because of COVID-19, mostly in already crisis-affected countries, the World Food Programme (WFP) calculated - 9.3 million people in Syria are now food insecure (almost half the country’s population), the highest number recorded and an increase of 1.4 million people since the start of 2020 - Around 3.3 million refugees across East Africa - 72 per cent of the total regional refugee caseload - face ration cuts of 10 to 40 per cent, exposing them to further hunger and malnutrition.

Despite the grim picture, Bayldon says the emerging hunger crisis creates an opportunity for those who can to step up as a humanitarian leaders. "We’re calling on governments around the world - including New Zealand - to boost overseas aid, particularly in the sectors affected by COVID-19, like healthcare. Unless we act now to address the pandemic’s impacts on children in the hardest-hit places, the echoes of COVID-19 will permanently scar our shared future. But I am confident New Zealand won’t just stand by and watch this crisis unfold. Generosity in the face of need is in our DNA."

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