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David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, briefs reporters at the UN, in New York, on Nov. 16, 2018.

Mark Garten/The Associated Press

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) will need to raise $6.8-billion over the next six months to avert famine amid the COVID-19 crisis, the agency said on Tuesday.

The WFP, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week for its efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict, said it had so far raised $1.6-billion.

“We’ve got a lot more money to raise to make certain we avert famine,” David Beasley, executive director of the WFP, said at a conference organized by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

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Beaseley noted that 7 million people had died from hunger this year as the COVID-19 pandemic, which could double hunger worldwide, claimed a further 1 million lives.

“If we don’t sort out COVID, (the) hunger death rate could be 3, 4, 5 times that,” said Beaseley.

The Rome-based WFP says it helps some 97 million people in about 88 countries each year, and that one in nine people worldwide still do not have enough to eat.

After declining for several decades, world hunger has been on the rise again since 2016, driven by the twin scourges of conflict and climate change.

“If you think about the wealth on Earth today we shouldn’t see one single child (go) hungry or die from starvation,” said Beaseley.

The WFP has dispatched medical cargoes to over 120 countries during the pandemic, and provided passenger services to ferry humanitarian workers where commercial flights were unavailable.

The agency, the world’s largest humanitarian organization, is funded entirely by donations. It provides school meals to 17.3 million children globally and delivered 4.2 million tonnes of food to regions or countries in need in 2019.

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