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World Food Program Warns That Syria, 36 Nations Altogether Face Threat of Famine

June 15, 2020 (EIRNS)—World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley issued a stark warning about the onrushing danger of famine in Syria as the economic collapse in that country and in neighboring Lebanon pushes food supply systems to the brink. The WFP reports that food prices in Syria are now the highest on record, after the collapse of the Syrian pound. Prices in the WFP’s food basket increased by 16% in the latest monthly tally.

“If Syria continues to deteriorate and the availability of cash, availability of food and supply chain disruption on a country that’s already devastated by 10 years of war, famine could very well be knocking on that door,” Beasley told United Arab Emirates daily The National in an interview published June 12. The WFP is already providing food assistance to 4 million Syrians inside Syria and to another 1.6 million refugees outside the country. With the currency collapse, the WFP is now shifting from cash assistance to direct food procurement and distribution. “If we send cash in, they don’t have anything to buy, so we are now having to convert cash to food,” Beasley said. “Syria is deteriorating in a pretty serious way, because the Lebanese economy has collapsed, as has the banking system.”

“Those two economies are so linked by tradition and history,” he went on. “That has just had a devastating impact and now we’ve got real issues of food security in Lebanon, real serious.”

More broadly, Beasley said that he’s working on persuading governments to increase the WFP’s funding to over $10 billion in 2020, a substantial boost from the $8.3 billion it received in 2019. “I was saying before COVID-19 that the year 2020 was going to be the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II,” he said. “Then desert locusts hit, then COVID-19 hit, and COVID-19 has done nothing but exponentially exacerbate a crisis situation.” Without the extra $2 billion, Beasley is concerned that there could be further shutdown or interruption of the global food supply systems. He is pleading with governments to keep farmers planting seeds and harvesting to ensure that there is enough to eat.

“We’re looking at a remote possibility that 36 countries could face famine,” he said. “Over 10 countries right now that have over a million people each are already on the brink, so we are right at that line.”

The interview includes a graphic June 12 Twitter entry from Beasley: “Locusts, heavy rains & #COVID19 are bearing down on East Africa. Just one square km of a #DesertLocust swarm can consume the same amount as 35,000 people—in one day! We’ve got to move fast to fight this triple menace. More in this new report: http://bit.ly/2Ut3jmu” citing the June 2020 “Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition.”

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