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Emergency Food Needs Surge as COVID-19 Continues to Spread

FILE - A World Food Program worker arranges relief packages for humanitarian aid for Africa to combat the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 14, 2020.

The World Food Program reports food insecurity is increasing worldwide because of the devastating socio-economic impact of COVID-19, with tens of millions of people on the verge of famine.

Hunger is on the rise as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world. Last year, the World Food Program, the world’s largest humanitarian operation fighting hunger, provided food aid to nearly 100 million people.

Amer Daoudi is WFP senior director of operations and corporate response. He tells VOA the number of people who do not know where their next meal is coming from has risen by 39 percent this year.

“So, the global figure is the immediate need 138 million but if the situation continues to deteriorate, we can end up with almost 260 million people in critical need," Daoudi said.

The latest Integrated Phase Classification, a system that gauges the severity of food emergencies finds 146 million people in 49 countries are facing an acute food and livelihood crisis. The IPC finds another 29 million people in 36 countries are on the verge of famine.

Daoudi says WFP will need $5.1 billion to deal with this hunger crisis over the next six months. He says countries in Africa are among those in greatest need.

He notes 13 million people in the Central Sahelian countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have been laid low by the pandemic as well as by conflict and climate change. He says they will require life-saving food assistance.

“We are seeing the knock-on effect of COVID, whether it is on trade, socio-economic income, as well as inflation," Daoudi said. "In Africa, South Sudan comes to mind. Sudan, southern Africa region is suffering…DRC—Congo is seeing quite significant increase in needs. Up to almost 22 million people this year.”

The WFP official says similar conditions of distress exist in all regions of the world and are likely to get worse as COVID continues to evolve. He says the current spike in cases and deaths in the United States, Europe and Latin America are not encouraging.