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Elon Musk in Germany

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, stands at a press event on the grounds of the Tesla Gigafactory in Brandenburg, Germany. Musk has rocketed past Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos to become the world's richest man. Musk is worth $209 billion while Bezos is worth $192 billion. (Photo: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images)

WFP Chief: Billionaires Should Donate Mere 0.36% of Pandemic Profits to Feed 42 Million Starving People

"What if it was your family starving to death?"

Andrea Germanos

The head of the World Food Programme is urging U.S. billionaires to give just .36% of the increase in their collective wealth since the start of the pandemic to help prevent 42 million people from starving to death.

The remarks from WFP executive director David Beasley, who singled out the fortunes of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, came in an interview that aired Tuesday on CNN's "Connect the World."

"Billionaires need to step up," he said, with a one-time donation of "six billion dollars to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don't reach them." Beasley said governments are "tapped out" and that addressing the hunger crisis was especially critical amid "a perfect storm of conflict, climate change, and Covid."

"It's not complicated," said Beasley.

Beasley referenced an analysis from August showing that the top 400 billionaires in the U.S. saw their combined fortune rise $1.8 trillion amid the Covid-19 crisis. "All I'm asking for," said Beasley, "is .36% of your net worth increase" during that time.

"I'm for people making money, but, God knows, also for you helping people who are in great need right now. The world is in trouble... and you're telling me you can't give me .36% of your net worth increase?"

"What if it was your daughter starving to death?" Beasley said. "What if it was your family starving to death?"

"Wake up, smell the coffee, and help," he said.

Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality this month updated their analysis on the surge of billionaires' wealth since the pandemic broke out, finding that it's now grown $2.1 trillion over the past 19 months, so the $6 billion in donations Beasley asked for would be an even smaller percentage of that growth.

The WFP chief has made similar recent appeals on Twitter to billionaires:

Beasley's CNN interview came the same month the United Nations marked World Food Day on Oct. 16.

In a statement for that occasion, he warned that the climate emergency stands to worsen an already grim scenario of global food insecurity.

"The climate crisis has the potential to overwhelm humanity," he said Beasley.

"The world is not prepared for the unprecedented rise in hunger we will see if we do not invest in programs that help vulnerable communities adapt and build resilience to our changing climate," Beasley said, adding that "the climate crisis is fueling a food crisis."

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