In a special UN session addressing the effects of the COVID pandemic on the world, the UN reports that up to 270 million people may starve due to pandemic-generated food insecurity, and at least 80 million- almost the entire population of Germany -are now refugees.
Several speakers pointed to the dangerous immediate future of COVID-19 deaths and extreme hunger, with Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, stressing that “we are still in a very, very difficult and dangerous situation”, with 4.4 million new cases and 70,000 deaths every week. Consistent and comprehensive strategies are needed, as a vaccine may be hopefully near, “but vaccination does not equal zero COVID”, he said.
Likewise, David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), warned of alarming global hunger and food insecurity, with the number of people “marching towards starvation” spiking from 135 million to 270 million as the pandemic unfolded. He stressed that 2021 will be catastrophic. “Famine is literally on the horizon and we are talking about the next few months,” he said. Noting how the WFP stepped in to deliver aid when the global airline industry shut down at the start of the pandemic, he warned anew that 2021 risks becoming the worst humanitarian crisis year since the founding of the United Nations, “and we will have to step up”.
Striking a similar note, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that in the absence of humanitarian assistance the lives of 235 million people are at stake — a 40 per cent increase, with poverty rising for the first time in 20 years while life expectancy will fall. It would be a significant achievement to avert a major famine. Despite $4 billion raised so far for the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19, and some $2 billion distributed in social protection payments, the difference being made is much too small in relation to the challenge. The vaccine rollout must be done right. “Let’s not finance vaccines at the expense of food security programmes or routine vaccinations. That would make things worse,” he warned.
Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, pointed out that the pandemic has left 80 million refugees and internally displaced persons particularly vulnerable to health hazards and other consequences. Most refugees are in poor countries, a fact that requires a special focus. From day one, his Office has strived to be present wherever necessary. That was not easy when travel was difficult, but its staff found ways to adapt, using technology and building upon cooperation with indispensable local providers. (source)
One can see the effects of COVID in the US. Millions are out of work and with no other means of income, and for the first time have turned to food banks for assistance. The shock of such a crisis is always a terrible thing, especially for those who did not expect to fall into poverty.
The crisis is not going to get better because even if the disease did go away, the crisis exposed the financial cracks in the system, which are entirely fueled by debt, and one that is unpayable. It is as much inseparable from this reality as is the rise of nationalism, extreme politics, and the push for militarism.
It’s not about the pandemic. It is about the stability of the system itself, and how it is not sustainable, and how this reality has been exposed for all to see.
People in the US may lose their homes, and homelessness is awful, but the poorer one is, the worse one will fare. For example, the poor in the Middle East, Africa, and the Subcontinent stand to lose a lot more and potentially suffer far worse such as death by starvation. It is not a surprise that 270 million- or about three-quarters of the US population -could starve.
Also, with 80 million refugees, where will they go? Right now it is known that there are millions in the Sahel region of West Africa and northern Ethiopia alone, and remembering that when this happened in 2015, it precipitated the refugee crisis of 2016 in Europe that also directly helped advanced nationalism, racialism, and militarism, the conditions for a more intense repeat of last time are present and ready to be executed.
Right now, the world is suffering a lot. The American Empire is crumbling, the regional breakup of societies and communal relations with a return to nationalism is preparing the conditions for war, and there is likely to be no region that will be spared some form of destruction.
270 million people may be only about 3.5% of the world’s population, but that is not a small number, for it only takes a small disruption to cause a serious problem that can consume the whole world. After all, if 1.3 million people applying for refugee status in Europe in 2015 can cause Germany to return to pre-World War II politics, imagine what 2.7 million- just one percent of the 270 million starving -would cause.