UN food chief urges China, Gulf nations to ‘step up big time’ as billions needed to avert impending unrest, starvation and mass migration

World Food Program chief David Beasley says China needs “to engage in the multilateral world” and be willing to provide more financial help.(AP: Brian Inganga, File)

from Associated Press in ABC news April 1st 2023

Without billions of dollars more to feed millions of hungry people, the world will see mass migration, destabilised countries, and starving children and adults in the next 12 to 18 months, the head of the Nobel prize-winning UN World Food Program (WFP) has said.

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 organisation to US ambassador Cindy McCain next week, the former South Carolina governor said he was “extremely worried” that WFP would not raise about $US23 billion ($34 billion) it needs this year to help millions of needy people.

“Right at this stage, I’ll be surprised if we get 40 per cent of it, quite frankly,” he said.

Last year, Mr 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.

Mr 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 did not think they would do it again this year.

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

Mr 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 the help that is critical, he said.

“They have a moral obligation to do so.”

Mr Beasley said they had done “an incredible job of feeding their people”, and “now we need their help in other parts of the world”, particularly in poorer countries like Africa.

With high oil prices, Gulf countries could also do more, particularly Muslim nations with relations with countries in east Africa, the Sahara and elsewhere in the Middle East, he said, expressing hope they would increase contributions.

‘Not too much to ask’

Mr Beasley said the wealthiest billionaires made unprecedented profits during the COVID-19 pandemic, and “it’s not too much to ask some of the multi-billionaires to step up and help us in the short-term crisis”, even though charity was not a long-term solution to the food crisis.

In the long term, he said he would like to see 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 destabilisation, and that will all be on top of starvation among children and people around the world,” he warned.

Mr Beasley said WFP was forced to cut rations by 50 per cent 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.”

Mr Beasley said he had told leaders in the West and Europe that while they were focusing everything on Ukraine and Russia, “you better well not forget about what’s south and south-east 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 was no reason for any child to die of starvation.

The WFP executive director said leaders had to prioritise the humanitarian needs that would 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 US is now five times what it was a year-and-a-half ago.


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