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