COVID-19 could force over 19 million people, half of them children, into famine across 12 countries

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  •   50% increase in the numbers of people at risk of starvation compared to last year
  •   Only 29% of funding needed to prevent this has been provided
  •   Secondary impacts of COVID-19 combined with conflict & natural disasters creating a life-threatening hunger emergency

SEATTLE (October 15, 2020)World Vision, the world’s largest Christian humanitarian organization, warned today that over 19 million people, including 10 million children, are at risk of famine in 12 of the world’s most fragile countries due to a deadly mix of conflict, the economic impacts of COVID-19 and climate-related natural disasters.

World Vision fears that if the international community does not increase funding to meet urgent food needs in these and other fragile contexts, millions could die. Only around 29% of the budget needed to prevent potential famine has been received so far.

“COVID-19 is exacerbating all of the shocks and stresses of the world’s poor,” explained Edgar Sandoval Sr., president and CEO of World Vision. “The slender thread they were hanging by has snapped, forcing them deeper into poverty and hunger – without a safety net. Sadly, this means a number of countries are at risk of being plunged into famine situations. We urgently need to be the hands and feet of Jesus and help them now.”

Countries that were dealing with crises such as conflict before the COVID-19 pandemic are at the greatest risk of famine.  Democratic Republic of Congo, a country mired in conflict for decades, now has 5.7 million people at risk of starvation. This represents a 77% increase when compared to 2019.

Similarly, an estimated 7.4 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are struggling with crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity during the current lean season. That is three times more acutely food insecure people than just one year ago.

“Pandemic lockdowns and work stoppages have meant no income for families in the developing world,” Sandoval said. “Layer this on top of armed conflict, which also affects access to food, and you have a crisis within a crisis. We are dismayed to see a one-year increase of 50% in the numbers of people facing starvation and severe malnutrition in the countries we are targeting to help.”

Acute hunger has been climbing for the past four years, reaching a peak of 135 million in 2019 due to a deadly mix of conflict and increased climate and economic shocks. In April, the UN’s World Food Program warned that the number of people facing acute hunger could double due to COVID-19. World Vision is the largest implementing partner of the WFP. In 2019, our partnership reached almost 11 million people, 53% of whom were children, in 29 countries.

“Thanks to our partnership with the WFP, every day we see children’s lives saved and hope restored to families. Under the grim circumstances of the pandemic, partnerships like this one and the support of donors and governments will be even more critical to save lives. We must do all we can to ensure every child has the opportunity to thrive.”

Note to editor

Countries included in this research are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, DRC, Haiti, Honduras, Nigeria(North east), South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe.

About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization conducting relief, development, and advocacy activities in its work with children, families, and their communities in nearly 100 countries to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit or on Twitter @WorldVisionUSA.