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Millions are at risk of starving to death — and just .36% of the world’s top billionaires’ net worth could help fix it, U.N. official says


Millions of people in 43 countries are at risk of famine, the most extreme form of hunger that can result in death, according to the United Nations World Food Programme. And the director of the program says all it would take to prevent that from happening is a small fraction of U.S. billionaires’ net worth. 

David Beasley, director of the World Food Programme, told CNN’s Becky Anderson on Tuesday that a “one-time” donation from the top 400 billionaires in the U.S. could help save the lives of 42 million people this year. 

“The governments are tapped out. This is why and this is when … the billionaires need to step up now on a one-time basis, $6 billion to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them,” Beasley said. “It’s not complicated.”

The World Food Programme blames the hunger crisis on a “toxic cocktail” of conflict, climate change, disasters, structural poverty and inequality. COVID-19, the program says, has only made it worse. On its website, the program says it needs $6 billion to avert worldwide famine this year. 

Famine, according to the organization, is declared when at least 20% of households in an area face extreme food shortages, at least 30% of kids are malnourished, and the daily death from starvation rate is greater than 2 people per 10,000. 

In Afghanistan alone, the United Nations has warned that more than one million children could die from malnutrition if the country doesn’t receive humanitarian assistance soon. Roughly 95% of families in the nation do not have enough food, according to WFP. In Haiti, a country suffering from political, social and economic instability, roughly half of the population is food insecure, WFP says.

Beasley pointed toward Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the two richest people in the world, who could each individually help those in these situations with a small chunk of their overall change. 

Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has a net worth of $151 billion, according to Forbes, with his wealth increasing by more than 500% from January 2020 to March this year. Meanwhile, Amazon CEO Bezos has a net worth of $177 billion. 

And their net worth is still growing. The week of October 11, Musk’s net wealth increased by $12.7 billion due to Tesla stock gains, according to Forbes, and in just one day, on October 15, Bezos’ generated $5.6 billion from Amazon stock. When news broke that Musk may have beat Bezos for the richest person title, he tweeted at Bezos a silver second place medal emoji. 

Meanwhile, Beasley told CNN that millions of others are in a “heartbreaking” situation as they’re “knocking on famine’s door.” 

He told CNN that even just a small amount from the billionaires’ increase in wealth last year could make a huge difference in others’ lives. Of the $65 billion that the Bezos fortune grew in the first year of the pandemic, Beasley is asking for 10%. 

“I’m not asking them to do this every day, every week, every year,” he said. “We have a one-time crisis: a perfect storm of conflict, climate change and COVID. …Just help me with them one time.” 

If the world’s top 400 billionaires chipped in, Beasley said, all it would take to prevent famine is .36% of their total net worth increases.

“The world’s in trouble and you’re telling me you can’t give me .36% of your net worth increase to help the world in trouble, in times like this?” he said. “What if it was your daughter starving to death? What if it was your family starving to death? Wake up, smell the coffee, and help.”

“My god, people are dying out there,” Beasley said. “We have a vaccine for this. It’s called money, food.” 





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