The world is at risk of widespread famines “of biblical proportions” caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the UN has warned.
David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme (WFP), said urgent action was needed to avoid a catastrophe.
A report estimates that the number suffering from hunger could go from 135 million to more than 250 million.
Those most at risk are in 10 countries affected by conflict, economic crisis, and climate change, the WFP says.
The fourth annual Global Report on Food Crises highlights Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria, and Haiti.
In South Sudan, 61% of the population was affected by the food crisis last year, the report says.
Even before the pandemic hit, parts of East Africa and South Asia were already facing severe food shortages caused by drought and the worst locust infestations for decades.
Addressing the UN Security Council during a video conference, Mr. Beasley said the world had to “act wisely and act fast”.
“We could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months,” he said. “The truth is we do not have time on our side.”
In a call to action, he added: “I do believe that with our expertise and our partnerships, we can bring together the teams and the programmes necessary to make certain the COVID-19 pandemic does not become a human and food crisis catastrophe.”