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UN: Billions to Avert Unrest, Hunger   04/01 08:58


   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Without billions of dollars more to feed millions of 
hungry people, the world will see mass migration, destabilized countries, and 
starving children and adults in the next 12 to 18 months, the head of the Nobel 
prize-winning U.N. World Food Program warned Friday.

   David Beasley praised increased funding from the United States and Germany 
last year, and urged China, Gulf nations, billionaires and other countries "to 
step up big time."

   In an interview before he hands the reins of the world's largest 
humanitarian organization to U.S. ambassador Cindy McCain next week, the former 
South Carolina governor said he's "extremely worried" that WFP won't raise 
about $23 billion it needs this year to help millions of needy people

   "Right at this stage, I'll be surprised if we get 40% of it, quite frankly," 
he said.

   Last year, Beasley raised $14.2 billion for WFP, more than double the $6 
billion in 2017, the year he took over as executive director. That money helped 
over 128 million people in more than 120 countries and territories.

   Beasley said he was able to convince the United States last year to increase 
its funding from about $3.5 billion to $7.4 billion and Germany to raise its 
contribution from $350 million a few years ago to $1.7 billion, but he doesn't 
think they'll do it again this year.

   Other countries need to step up now, he said, starting with China, the 
world's second-largest economy which gave WFP just $11 million last year.

   Beasley applauded China for its success in substantially reducing hunger and 
poverty at home, but said it gave less than one cent per person last year 
compared to the United States, the world's leading economy, which gave about 
$22 per person.

   China needs "to engage in the multilateral world" and be willing to provide 
help that is critical, he said. "They have a moral obligation to do so."

   Beasley said they've done "an incredible job of feeding their people," and 
"now we need their help in other parts of the world" on how they did it, 
particularly in poorer countries including in Africa.

   With high oil prices Gulf countries can also do more, especially Muslim 
nations that have relations with countries in east Africa, the Sahara and 
elsewhere in the Middle East, he said, expressing hope they will increase 

   Beasley said the wealthiest billionaires made unprecedented profits during 
the COVID-19 pandemic, and "it's not too much to ask some of the 
multibillionaires to step up and help us in the short-term crisis," even though 
charity isn't a long-term solution to the food crisis.

   In the long-term, he said what he'd really like to see is billionaires using 
their experience and success to engage "in the world's greatest need -- and 
that is food on the planet to feed 8 billion people."

   "The world has to understand that the next 12 to 18 months is critical, and 
if we back off the funding, you will have mass migration, and you will have 
destabilization nations and that will all be on top of starvation among 
children and people around the world," he warned.

   Beasley said WFP was just forced to cut rations by 50% to 4 million people 
in Afghanistan, and "these are people who are knocking on famine's door now."

   "We don't have enough money just to reach the most vulnerable people now," 
he said. "So we are in a crisis over the cliff stage right now, where we 
literally could have hell on earth if we're not very careful."

   Beasley said he's been telling leaders in the West and Europe that while 
they're focusing everything on Ukraine and Russia, "you better well not forget 
about what's south and southeast of you because I can assure you it is coming 
your way if you don't pay attention and get on top of it."

   With $400 trillion worth of wealth on the planet, he said, there's no reason 
for any child to die of starvation.

   The WFP executive director said leaders have to prioritize the humanitarian 
needs that are going to have the greatest impact on stability in societies 
around the world.

   He singled out several priority places -- Africa's Sahel region as well as 
the east including Somalia, northern Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia; Syria 
which is having an impact on Jordan and Lebanon; and Central and South America 
where the number of people migrating to the United States is now five times 
what it was a year-and-a-half ago.

   Beasley said McCain, the widow of U.S. Senator John McCain from Arizona who 
was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and has been the U.S. ambassador 
to Rome-based WFP and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, "is the right 
person at the right time" to lead the World Food Program.

   They've been working together to make sure "she hits the ground running," he 
said, But "it's going to be a very, very challenging time" because of all the 
money going to the war in Ukraine, and the need to help so many other fragile 

   Beasley said his biggest surprise was believing in April 2017, when he took 
over the agency and there were 80 million people in the world "marching to 
starvation," that "we could end world hunger and put the World Food Program out 
of business."

   What he didn't expect were the conflicts and wars, the climate shocks, the 
COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war, he said, which raised the 80 million in 
desperate need of food to 135 million right before COVID started spreading in 
early 2020, to 276 million before Russia invaded Ukraine -- "the bread basket 
of the world" -- in February 2022, and to 350 million now.

   Beasley said ""it's hard not to get depressed" but two things give him hope.

   Seeing little girls and boys smiling in the midst of war and suffering from 
hunger "inspires you not to give up," he said, as does the bipartisan support 
in the often divided U.S. Congress for helping the poorest of the poor around 
the world.

   As he returns to his family in South Carolina, Beasley said his dream 
remains to end world hunger.

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