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Yemen famine

A malnourished Yemeni child receives treatment in Al-Sabeen Hospital in the capital city of Sana'a on October 25, 2021. (Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

In Urgent Appeal, UN Hunger Agency Warns Millions of People Facing Starvation

"There are now more than 45 million people marching towards the brink of starvation."

Brett Wilkins

Warning that more than 45 million people around the globe—but most acutely in Afghanistan, Africa, and the Middle East—are in imminent danger of starvation, the head of the United Nations World Food Program on Monday urgently appealed to political leaders, the superrich, and people in the Global North for help.

"When there's $400 trillion worth of wealth on the Earth today, shame on us that we let any child die of hunger."

"Tens of millions of people are staring into an abyss," WFP Executive Director David Beasley said in a statement. "We've got conflict, climate change, and Covid-19 driving up the numbers of the acutely hungry, and the latest data show there are now more than 45 million people marching towards the brink of starvation."

Beasley—who traveled to Afghanistan, where the WFP is increasing efforts to provide aid to 23 million people—added that "fuel costs are up, food prices are soaring, fertilizer is more expensive, and all of this feeds into new crises like the one unfolding now in Afghanistan, as well as long-standing emergencies like Yemen and Syria."

In addition to Afghanistan, the WFP identified Yemen—where a six-year, U.S.-backed Saudi-led intervention in a civil war has caused widespread hunger—as well as war-torn Syria, Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Madagascar as the hardest-hit among 43 countries suffering food crises.

In a BBC interview Monday, Beasley—a former Republican governor of South Carolina—said that the situation in Afghanistan "is as bad as you can possibly imagine. Ninety-five percent of the people don't have enough food."

The BBC also interviewed desperate Afghans, who are bracing for an especially cold winter and who are receiving less food aid since the Taliban retook control of the country earlier this year.

"I've got nothing to give the children," said Fatema, a single mother of seven from Bamiyan in central Afghanistan. "Soon I'll have to go out and beg."

The WFP says families facing acute food shortages are being forced to make "devastating choices to cope with the rising hunger."

"In Madagascar, where pockets of famine are already a reality, some are being forced to eat locusts, wild leaves, or cactus to survive," the agency reports.

According to WFP, the cost of averting famine globally is $7 billion. Beasley recently noted that the 400 wealthiest Americans collectively got $1.8 trillion richer during the Covid-19 pandemic and that it would require less than 0.4% of that amount to prevent worldwide famine.

"Imagine that this was your little girl or your little boy or your grandchild about to starve to death, you would do everything you possibly could," he told BBC. "And when there's $400 trillion worth of wealth on the Earth today, shame on us that we let any child die of hunger."

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