The World Food Programme predicts that more than a quarter of a billion people will be living with acute hunger by the end of 2020.
A recent statement from the World Food Programme (WFP) predicts that the COVID-19 pandemic will put the lives and livelihoods of as many as 265 million people at risk. The new figures would almost double current world hunger statistics.
The statement, published on April 16, warns that 130 million more people in middle income countries will be under severe threat because of the economic fallout of the pandemic, unless swift action is taken.
The figures released in the WFP report come in stark contrast to the numbers published in the Global Report on Food Crises 2020, where research ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic suggested that 135 million lives would be at risk from world crises.
The report spotlights the populations of sub-Saharan African countries and states in the Middle East and North Africa as the most at risk.
“These new projections show the scale of the catastrophe we are facing,” WFP Chief Economist Afif Hussein emphasized in a press release.
Urging MENA and sub-Saharan African governments and international actors to step in, he said: “We must make sure that tens of millions of people already on the verge of starvation do not succumb to this virus or to its economic consequences in terms of loss of jobs and incomes.”
Hussein underlined that governments across Africa and the Middle East are already taking action to prevent a deeper crisis.
“Just like in developed nations, governments are doing all they can to assist their people. We need to do the same for tens of millions of people,” he said.
The Moroccan government has already launched a series of initiatives to bolster the economy and support vulnerable people.
On April 20, Morocco’s Economic Watch Committee (CVE) announced that more than 200,000 eligible Medical Assistance Plan (RAMED) holders are receiving stipends every day as part of the country’s efforts to alleviate financial pressure on informal sector workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
The government announced plans to extend the program to non-RAMED holders on April 23.
Morocco’s Special Fund for the Management and Response to COVID-19 will cover the stipends. King Mohammed VI called for the creation of a special fund on March 15 to alleviate pressure on the economy.
The fund, with contributions from public and private companies, is worth more than MAD 33 billion (approximately $3.29 billion) as of April 11.
“The operationalization of the measures decided to support companies including those holding public contracts in terms of payment, flexibility of operation, and execution of public contracts taking into account force majeure, is on the right track,” the CVE said.
Underlining the serious ramifications of the economic crisis on sub-Saharan African countries who rely on trade and humanitarian aid as well as war torn countries in the MENA region, Hussein urged governments to keep trade channels open.
“It’s critical that commercial trade continues to flow regardless of anything else taking place around it,” he said.
If trade channels close, he went on, “the humanitarian work cannot happen. Quite simply, millions of people’s lives depend on the flow of trade, and the impact of disruption on people’s food security is hugely concerning.”
The economic expert explained that international cooperation is key to curbing the serious impacts of the crisis.
“Hoarding food supplies or putting up trade barriers does not work. Starving your neighbour is not good policy,” he stressed. “We have seen this many times in the food and fuel crisis in 2008 and in the financial crisis of 2009. Again in the food crises of 2010 and 2012. It’s better to facilitate trade and let it flow across the world.”