“To vitally support the developing world at the present moment, is not a matter of generosity, it’s a matter of enlightened self-interest.” António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General
The United Nations will turn 75 years old on 24 October this year. For the past 75 years, it has been tasked with serving the world’s population and alleviating hunger, disease and poverty. The current pandemic has brought the world to its knees, but especially in the economic and healthcare fields. While scientists are racing to find a vaccine against Covid-19 many of the UN agencies are desperate to prevent the collateral damage of the crisis, including a pandemic-induced food emergency, which will hit the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. Two UN agencies that face great challenges at this time are the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). While the WHO is dealing with the pandemic itself, in addition to treating and preventing the many other communicable and non-communicable diseases in the world, the WFP is faced with logistical challenges on how to continue to reach the millions of people who rely on it for food each year.
The WFP, responsible for alleviating hunger and malnutrition in the world, currently assists over 100 million people in 83 countries, including 30 million people who depend on the organization just to stay alive. Like all UN agencies, it relies on member state donations to operate, with the US and Germany being its two most generous donors. Before the pandemic, appallingly, 1 in 9 people in the world already did not have enough food to eat – that is roughly 821 million people. However, the pandemic has made an intolerable situation even worse and has exacerbated already existing inequalities.
The Executive Director of the WFP, David Beasley, told the UN Security Council in April 2020, that the world is now at risk of facing “multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months” because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and that in order to avoid this catastrophe urgent action is needed. Beasley – who himself had contracted and recovered from Covid-19 – said that “an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020. That’s a total of 265 million people”.