UN warns 41 million people face famine without $6bn in urgent funding

Soaring food prices partly to blame for worsening global crisis

Women carry sacks of food, airdropped by the World Food Programme and distributed by the NGO Oxfam in Padding, near Lankien, Jonglei, South Sudan, on July 3, 2017. - Fighting between Government and opposition forces in April 2017 pushed thousands of civilians to be displaced in Padding and Lankien, both are still under opposition control. The massive displacement brought an outbreak of cholera and a serious need of health assistance, drinking water and food distribution among the population, according to the local leaders. (Photo by ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN / AFP)
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Millions of people are facing famine without $6 billion in urgent funding and humanitarian access, the UN's World Food Programme has warned.

More than 500,000 people are experiencing starvation in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen, with 41 million more “teetering on the very edge” across 43 countries, the agency said on Tuesday.

“I am heartbroken at what we’re facing in 2021,” said WFP executive director David Beasley. “I want to emphasise just how bad it is out there. Today, 41 million people are literally knocking on famine’s door.

"The price tag to reach them is about $6bn. We need funding and we need it now."

About 0.5 per cent of the global population is on the brink of famine this year due to conflict, economic shock and soaring food costs. The figure has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2019.

The WFP estimates 270 million people in the scores of countries where the programme operates are facing acute food insecurity.

I am heartbroken at what we're facing in 2021
WFP executive director David Beasley

A recent surge in prices for staple foods, coupled with depreciating currencies, is compounding food insecurity in countries such as Nigeria, Lebanon and Zimbabwe.

Global corn prices have nearly doubled from last year and the cost of wheat is up 30 per cent, said the agency, which was the latest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The UN estimates the number of undernourished people across the world to be more than 690 million.