More than 11 million people in Latin America “marched to the brink of starvation” due to economic conditions exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, UN Food Agency Chief David Beasley has warned.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has just devastated Latin America, where the economic storm clouds have gathered,” Beasley said in a statement issued by the World Food Program (WFP) on Wednesday after his trip to Ecuador and Panama. “Families are struggling to buy basic materials such as food and medicine, because livelihoods are destroyed and the number of people who lost jobs in the region reaches 44 million.”
“We have seen a substantial increase in more than 11 million people marching towards the threshold of hunger,” he said in a video taken in Ecuador during his trip.
Before he traveled, Beasley told CBS News that Latin America was a “time bomb”. He underlined the point when he returned, arguing that WFP needed $ 328 million in additional funding to support relief and recovery operations in the region.
A spokeswoman for WFP, Shaza Moghraby, shared Beasley’s concerns, telling CBS News that “This visit confirms our concern about the profound impact of a pandemic on the lives of millions of people and the possible consequences of regional stability.”
Latin America and the Caribbean are estimated to have a 269% increase in the number of people with “severe food insecurity” in the coming months, according to analysis presented this week by WFP. That means that 16 million people won’t know where their next meal will come from, up from 4.3 million last year.
“When corona virus cases soar, Latin America has become the region most affected by COVID-19 globally, accounting for more than a quarter of world cases,” said WFP. “Health pandemics encourage hunger and food insecurity that risk triggering conflict and political unrest and forcing vulnerable families to migrate.”
Beasley also warned that the situation might be made worse by someone.
“You will experience political destabilization, mass migration, economic setbacks, supply chain disruptions and many people will starve in addition to COVID itself,” he said.
“You can’t just deal with COVID-19 by itself or starve yourself,” he added. “They must be dealt with together. If we do it right, we can save lives. If we don’t do it right, people will die.”
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