Act by giving: WFP Executive Director calls for private sector to "step-up" in a world jolted by Europe's war
Columbia, SC – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley has called on corporations, wealthy individuals, and the public to contribute more to steady a world rocked by war in Europe.
Speaking from South Carolina at a press event with former governors George Pataki and Jim Hodges, Beasley said that while even the poor in developed nations will feel the impact of economic shock, the world’s most vulnerable are most exposed.
“When we don't have enough money,” said Beasley, “we have to choose who eats, who doesn't eat, who lives, who dies – and that’s when there's 430 trillion dollars of wealth on planet Earth.”
Even prior to the war, funding for countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, and South Sudan, where tens of millions of people rely on food aid, was falling even as demand for humanitarian assistance rapidly grew. “We were already facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two before the Ukrainian war,” said Beasley.
With the world still roiling from the Covid-19 pandemic, and over four million additional refugees in Europe in just the past four weeks, an unprecedented shock wave is reverberating through the global food system, with food prices are at their highest ever.
Standing alongside Beasley was Michael Klein, a US financier just returned from meeting refugees newly arrived by train from L’viv at the Poland/Ukraine border. “What we saw was the gateway between Hell and Sanctuary. You can't possibly not be moved when you see a train load of 2,000 kids, many disabled, with the Polish National Guard carrying them off.”
Drawing a straight line between the war and global hunger, Beasley said, “if we can stabilize Ukraine, it's going to help millions of people all around the world.” He noted that with each passing month of war in Ukraine, millions of the world’s poorest will join the ranks of the world’s hungriest.
A number of the world’s poorest and least stable nations rely on food imports, mass humanitarian aid, or subsidised bread that feeds the poor and which is considered a primary stabiliser in social welfare systems. Lebanon, for example, a country where the standard of living has plummeted in recent years and social instability is rife, now competes on a far tighter commodity market for the 60 per cent of wheat it typically imports from Ukraine.
Prior to the war, Ukraine alone produced enough food for 400 million people. The UN has warned that it is uncertain whether Ukrainian farmland will be planted or harvested this year at all, due to fighting and the destruction of agricultural infrastructure. “It's one thing to have a food price spike. It's another thing to have a lack of food itself,” said Beasley.
“We're appealing to the young people who have access just as a simple cell phone to go on wfp.org and give a dollar or two dollars or five dollars. And those of wealth who've made billions during COVID, it's time to step up in ways that you've never could imagine.”
The event included members of the Ukrainian community from across the Southeast, the faith community, business leaders and students.
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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.