By Yoshita Singh :
THE UN food relief agency has warned that the world is on the brink of a “hunger pandemic” and could face multiple famines of biblical proportions within few months if nations don’t act now to avoid funding shortfalls and disruptions to trade due to COVID-19, which continues to spread unabated. The novel coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last, has so far infected over 25,65,290 people and claimed more than 1,77,770 lives. “While dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic,” David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), said at a virtual session of the UN Security Council on the ‘Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Protecting Civilians Affected by Conflict-Induced Hunger’ on Tuesday. “There are no famines yet. But I must warn you that if we don’t prepare and act now -- to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls and disruptions to trade -- we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months,” he said. Beasley said that with COVID-19, the world not only faces a global health pandemic but also a global humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations, including many women and children, face being pushed to the brink of starvation, with the spectre of famine a very real and dangerous possibility, he noted.
Beasley said, 821 million people go to bed chronically hungry every night all over the world. A further 135 million people are facing crisis levels of hunger or worse. “But now the World Food Programme analysis shows that due to coronavirus, an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020. That’s a total of 265 million people,” he said. Noting that the global spread of COVID-19 this year has sparked “the worst humanitarian crisis since World War-II”, Beasley pointed to deepening crises, more frequent natural disasters and changing weather patterns, saying, “We’re already facing a perfect storm.” WFP currently offers a lifeline to nearly 100 million people -- up from about 80 million just a few years ago.
“If we can’t reach these people with the life-saving assistance they need, our analysis shows that 3,00,000 people could starve to death every single day over a three-month period. This does not include the increase of starvation due to COVID-19,” Beasley said. He called on the Security Council to “act now” and “lead the way”, saying the world needs peace first and foremost to deal with the challenges. Beasley asked that all involved in the fighting provide “swift and unimpeded” humanitarian access to vulnerable communities and for coordinated action to support life-saving assistance, along with USD 350 million in new funding, to set up a network of logistics hubs to keep worldwide humanitarian supply chains moving. He stressed, “We do not have time on our side, so let’s act wisely – and let’s act fast.”
Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Qu Dongyu, in the conference highlighted how the newly released 2020 Global Report on Food Crises report clearly links conflict and rising levels of acute food insecurity. Against the backdrop of 135 million people in 55 countries experiencing acute food insecurity in 2019, nearly 60 per cent of whom lived in conflict or instability, Qu cited Yemen as the nation that is facing the world’s worst food and malnutrition crisis this year.
Over 154 cr students hit by schools, colleges closure due to COVID-19; girls to be worst hit: UNESCO
UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education warns increased drop-out rates affecting adolescent girls, further entrench gender gaps in education, increased risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy, early and forced marriages due to COVID-19
Apr 22 (PTI)
OVER 154 crore students are severely impacted by closure of educational institutions across the world amid the COVID-19 outbreak due to which girls will be the worst hit as it will lead to increased drop-out rates and further entrench gender gaps in education, UNESCO said. Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, told PTI in an interview that shutting down of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic comes with a warning of “potential for increased drop-out rates which will disproportionately affect adolescent girls, further entrench gender gaps in education and lead to increased risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and early and forced marriage”. “Out of the total population of students enrolled in education globally, we estimate that over 89 per cent are currently out of school because of COVID-19.
This represents 154 crore students enrolled in school or university, including nearly 74 crore girls,” she told over phone from Paris. According to Giannini, for girls living in refugee camps or who are internally displaced, shutting down of schools will be the most devastating as they are already at a disadvantage and education responses must prioritise the needs of adolescent girls’ at the risk of reversing 20 years of gains made for girls’ education. “Refugee girls at secondary level are only half as likely to enrol as their male peers. We are only beginning to understand the economic impacts of COVID-19, but they are expected to be widespread and devastating.
“Particularly for women and girls in countries where limited social protection measures are in place, economic hardships caused by the crisis will have spill-over effects as families consider the financial and opportunity costs of educating their daughters. While many girls will continue with their education once the school gates reopen, others will never return to school,” she said. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has called for policy-makers and practitioners to look into lessons from the past crises to address the challenges faced by girls as the Governments of various counties prepare for “indefinite” school closures.
“As Governments prepare for indefinite school closures, policy-makers and practitioners can look to lessons from the past crises to address the specific challenges faced by girls. We, therefore, call on Governments to protect progress made in favour of girls’ education through six gender-responsive, evidence-based and context-specific actions,” Giannini said.