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U.N. food group warns of 'Biblical' famines in 2021

COVID's effect on world economy could lead to devastating food shortages.

November 14, 2020 5:32pm

Updated: November 14, 2020 7:18pm

The head of the U.N.'s global food initiative said Saturday that the world could be facing "famines of Biblical proportions" next year due to fallout from the COVID-19 crisis. 

David Beasley, the executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, said the world managed to forestall crushing famines this year due to timely interventions by government leaders, but catastrophic food shortages could occur in 2021 if similar actions aren't taken, according to the Associated Press. 

"We were able to avert it in 2020," he said, "because the world leaders responded with money, stimulus packages, deferral of debt."

Yet nearly 300 million people could face crisis levels of hunger across the world next year if "we don’t have the money we need," he said. 

Beasley said the resumption of deferred payments for low-income countries in January could be disastrous for nations struggling after a brutal 2020, in which fear of the virus, along with national lockdowns across the planet, disrupted food supply chains and threw millions into hunger. 

Multiple countries in Africa and the Middle East are facing such prospects, he said. 

Beasley said that in addition to government support he is hoping to garner funding from business magnates who made billions during the pandemic. He hopes to collectively raise $15 billion, which he said would be enough to avert famine and fund critical food programs worldwide. 

The U.N. World Food Program was awarded the Nobel Prize last month for its work in feeding hungry populations and raising awareness of food shortages.

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