April 24, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic to be Followed by Hunger Pandemic – Warns UN


By the time the total lockdown is lifted, slums like this one in Kigali could be disaster zones

The poorest people in least developed countries are headed for another crisis; “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within a few months if immediate action isn’t taken.

David Beasley, the head of the U.N. food agency WFP warned Tuesday that, as the world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it is also “on the brink of a hunger pandemic”.

As of Thursday, Rwanda has been in total lockdown since March 14 as part of government measures to control spread of the COVID-19 virus. A single case was identified on Thursday, bringing total to 154. Of these, 87 have recovered, and there is no death.

But behind this seemingly good news that the government’s control measures are working, millions of Rwandans are silently unable to get the next meal. A government scheme to supply food to the most vulnerable is dogged in controversy and secrecy.

While government says people are getting food. Local media reports and on social media show people are hurting really bad. The true scale will only emerge after the lockdown is lifted.

For the WFP chief in U.N. Security Council briefing, “Lockdowns and economic recession are expected to lead to a major loss of income among the working poor. Overseas remittances will also drop sharply – this will hurt…”

In recent weeks, Rwandan diaspora groups have been collecting money to contribute to the Government’s fund for supporting the poorest. Those in Canada have collected $24,000, the ones in Belgium sent €30,000. Others have also sent tens of thousands of dollars.

However, with their own jobs at risk, Rwandan diaspora may not be able to send the regular remittances to their families back home. Nearly $250m every year has been entering Rwanda via small family transfers.

The loss of tourism receipts will damage countries across the globe. In Rwanda, whose tourism dollars have accounted hugely to the country’s purse, has completely collapsed, and will not be the same by end of the year, and beyond.

WFP chief said 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, a further 135 million people are facing “crisis levels of hunger or worse,” and a new World Food Program analysis shows that as a result of COVID-19 an additional 130 million people “could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020.”

He said in the video briefing that WFP is providing food to nearly 100 million people on any given day, including “about 30 million people who literally depend on us to stay alive.”

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