Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Billionaire wealth or empty bellies

 Oligarch Elon Musk suggested that he and other billionaires are powerless to help the tens of millions of people across the globe who are suffering from hunger—and dared experts to prove him wrong. 

David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Program did just that, providing a detailed proposal for how Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and other billionaires could prevent 42 million people from starving with a tiny fraction of their vast wealth.

Under the proposal, $3.5 billion would be used to purchase, deliver, and store food for people across 43 countries, and $2 billion would go towards cash and food vouchers, supporting local economies and helping "those most in need to buy the food of their choice."
For only $700 million, Musk and other billionaires could pay to design and manage "the implementation of efficient and effective programs for millions of tons more food and cash transfers and vouchers," and $400 million would go towards long-term global and regional operations management including "coordination of global supply lines and aviation routes... global monitoring and analysis of hunger worldwide; and risk management and independent auditors dedicated to oversight."
David Beasley called on Musk to look at the United Nations agency's "one-time appeal to billionaires" for $6.6 billion. 

"The $6.6 billion required would help those in most need in the following way: one meal a day, the basic needed to survive—costing $0.43 per person per day, averaged out across the 43 countries," reads the WFP's plan. "This would feed 42 million people for one year, and avert the risk of famine."

 Beasley's appeal to the exorbitantly wealthy few to stave off the global hunger crisis amounts to 0.36% of the wealth amassed by U.S. billionaires since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Musk, whose net worth is estimated at more than $276 billion, scoffed at Beasley's original plea last month, demanding that the WFP give a full accounting of how $6.6 billion could prevent famine and what the agency would do with the money.
"This hunger crisis is urgent, unprecedented, AND avoidable," tweeted Beasley on Monday. "The world is on fire," said Beasley. "I've been warning about the perfect storm brewing due to Covid, conflict, climate shocks, and now, rising supply chain costs. IT IS HERE. 45M lives are at stake—and increasing daily. If you don’t feed people, you feed conflict, destabilization & mass migration. While there's $400 trillion of wealth in the world today, shame on us that we let a single child die of hunger."

That number of people on the brink of famine has risen from 42 million to 45 million in less than a year, with Afghanistan the primary source of the increase. With the global community withholding aid funds following the Taliban's takeover, 60% of the Afghan population is suffering from acute hunger, and 3.2 million children under the age of five in Afghanistan are expected to face severe malnutrition by the end of the year.
Madagascar is also on the brink of the world's first famine driven almost entirely by the climate crisis.
Along with Yemen, Sudan, and South Sudan, the five countries account for 20 million people who are facing starvation.

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