Pope Francis has made a donation to the World Food Programme as the organization works to feed 270 million people this year amid rising hunger caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus infection levels have been rising in Latin America and Africa at a moment when food stocks in some parts of the world are already low, leaving more people vulnerable to food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme website.
The Vatican announced 3 July that Pope Francis would donate 25,000 euros (£22,500) as “an expression of his closeness to those affected by the pandemic and to those who are engaged in essential services for the poor and weakest and most vulnerable people in our society.”
With this “symbolic” gesture, the pope desires to express “paternal encouragement towards the organization’s humanitarian work and toward other countries willing to adhere to forms of support for integral development and public health in this time of crisis, and to combat social instability, food insecurity, rising unemployment, and the collapse of the economic systems of the most vulnerable nations.”
The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) has issued a call for $4.9 billion in funding to bring food assistance where governments are asking for more support.
“The impact of COVID-19 on people is demanding us to step up and scale up our efforts to ensure more food-insecure people receive assistance,” Margot van der Velden, director of emergencies for WFP, said 2 July.
Van der Velden said that she was particularly worried about Latin America, which has seen a threefold rise in the number of people requiring food assistance as the outbreak spreads across the region.
South Africa, which has documented more than 159,000 COVID-19 cases, has also experienced a 90% rise in the number of food-insecure people, according to WFP.
“The front line in the battle against the coronavirus is shifting from the rich world to the poor world,” WFP head David Beasley said 29 June.
“Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos,” he said.