The head of the UN's World Food Programme warned Wednesday there could be "unprecedented famine of biblical proportions" in dozens of countries without further action to address food shortages.
Speaking at a G20 event on humanitarian aid in Brindisi, Italy, WFP chief David Beasley said world leaders had stepped up last year with funds to help those already struggling when the coronavirus pandemic hit — but must now do so again.
"We thought Covid would be in our rearview mirror by the end of 2020, only to see it recycled, with Delta and other variants taking place, devastating particularly and especially low-income and developing nations around the world who have been catastrophically smited by this perfect storm," he said.
The WFP, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for its work, is appealing for $6 billion to help 41 million people it says are on the edge of famine in 43 countries.
It says famine-like conditions already exist in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen, while Nigeria and Burkina Faso are of particular concern.
"These are not just numbers, these are not just statistics, these are people with real names, real lives, fragile and literally on the brink of starvation," Beasley told a joint press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.
"If we don't address their needs, over the next six to nine months you could have unprecedented famine of biblical proportions, destabilisation of nations and mass migration.
"The simple solution is we need more support."
Aid agencies say food shortages driven by conflict, climate change and economic shocks has been exacerbated by the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic.