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WFP warns of COVID related famine
David M. Beasley, WFP Executive Director

WFP warns of COVID related famine

300,000 people could die of starvation daily

The World Food Program (WFP) has warned that famine related to the COVID-19 pandemic could cost a heavy toll of lives around the world.

WFP Executive Director David M. Beasley, who visited Ethiopia this week, said that 300,000 people could die of starvation daily around the world if the COVID-19 pandemic is not properly handled. The WFP has chosen Ethiopian Airlines Cargo at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport as the regional humanitarian hub. Beasley on Wednesday visited the state of the art cargo terminal which is serving as the UN humanitarian corridor to distribute lifesaving medical supplies to Africa in COVID-19 response.

During the inauguration of the Addis Ababa Humanitarian hub, Beasley said the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm. “It is making its way in Africa and I do not think we have seen anything yet. We have difficult days ahead of us,” he said.

Beasley said that WFP is committed to do what it can to address not only just COVID-19 pandemic but also the hanger crisis. “If we do not handle the COVID-19 pandemic right we will have absolute famine of difficult proportions around the world. We are looking at 150,000-300,000 people could die per day from starvation if we do not balance strategically address these issues right. We have already lost more than 325,000 people because of COVID-19. And as Tony Blare eloquently said the cure might be much worse than the disease itself,” he said.   

“This is why we are here. This is why we are putting this humanitarian hub right here in Addis Ababa so that we can move supplies strategically throughout the world especially in Africa. In WFP we do not only do food but we also do the humanitarian logistics passengers and cargo supply. We are moving these supplies strategically all over the world. We have already delivered supplies over a 108 different countries. It is absolutely critical that we have this hub in place,” he added.
Beasley commended Ethiopian Airlines which is delivering medical supplies to African countries. Ethiopian Cargo has also transported Personal Protective Equipment and ventilators from China to Europe and South America.

“Because of your reputation and commitment we made the decision to be here. We can to help not only just Ethiopia but hep all the people of Africa and other places and regions around the world,” Beasley said.

Ahmed Shide, Minister of finance, commend the WFP for the long standing partnership with Ethiopia and for the humanitarian support it is proving during in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahmed said the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented crisis since the world II. He said that the pandemic is creating enormous disruption in the livelihoods as well as social and economic systems worldwide. He said preventing the spread of the virus and protecting citizens’ health and safety remains the utmost priority of the government of Ethiopia. “Since Ethiopia officially announced the first COVID-19 case in mid-March the government has taken active prevention preparedness and control measures to curb the further spread of the virus and taking various measures to mitigate the impacts of the on the economy and social aspect,” he said. He further said that the COVID-19 response requires the coordinated effort of the government, international organizations and the private sector.

Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam made a briefing about the operations of Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services operations. Tewolde said Addis Ababa is the largest gateway hub in Africa for both passengers and cargo. He said Ethiopian operates the largest and the most modern cargo terminal which is currently handling humanitarian shipments. “We have demonstrated our capability when we delivered medical supplies to 51 countries in just six days. We have done that three times with the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation. We have also done it last time with Tencent Foundation and I think you made the right decision. And we will make you proud of your decision.”

Ethiopian Airlines state of the art cargo terminal has the capacity to handle 1.2 million tons of cargo per annum. Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services, one of the strategic business units of Ethiopian Airlines Group, operates 10 Boeing B777s and 2 B737 freighter aircraft.