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Can coronavirus create biblical famines?

Can coronavirus create biblical famines?

On Tuesday, the head of the UN's food relief agency warned that the coronavirus pandemic could produce "famines of biblical proportions," as 265 million people across 30 countries face starvation.

And yet, the world right now has an historic abundance of food. How is this possible?

Even before the arrival of COVID-19, historic locust swarms had left tens of millions in East Africa without enough food. And some 85 million people across 46 countries already needed emergency food aid in 2019.


But the coronavirus pandemic, and governments' responses to it, have made matters drastically worse in ways that hurt the neediest countries the most.

First, quarantines, social distancing, and travel restrictions have, in many places, cut the number of people able to work in the fields and farms that are the first link in global food supply chains. The associated economic slowdowns have also put hundreds of millions of people in lower income countries on the brink of poverty, diminishing their ability to afford food.

Second, protectionism is making food more expensive. More than a dozen countries have restricted exports of food for fear that they themselves might run out of it. Leading grain exporters like Russia and Vietnam have already imposed quotas. Others are considering similar measures. Export restrictions send prices higher. When importing countries buy and stockpile more than they need, prices rise further.

Even where food is available, millions of people will soon find themselves unable to afford it.

This is another example of how globalized economic interdependence works well in normal times but can create havoc when crises persuade countries to close their borders.

But hunger isn't just a threat for low-income countries…

Consider these four statistics from the United States, where lines at food banks in large cities are now growing longer.

  • In the US, one of the world's biggest food exporters, almost 12% of households were "food-insecure" and 6.5 million children didn't have enough to eat even before COVID-19 arrived.
  • A report by the US Federal Reserve published in May 2019, a time of strong US economic numbers, found that 27 percent of Americans polled would need to borrow or sell something just to meet an unexpected expense of $400, and 12 percent would have no ability to pay.
  • Thanks to coronavirus-related lockdowns, more than 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past five weeks.
    • Some 43% of US adults say that they or someone in their household has lost a job or taken a pay cut as a result of the quarantines.

    Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

    Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

    On Tuesday night, you can finally watch Trump and Biden tangle on the debate stage. But you TOO can go head to head on debate night .. with your fellow US politics junkies.

    Print out GZERO's handy debate BINGO cards and get ready to rumble. There are four different cards so that each player may have a unique board. Every time one of the candidates says one of these words or terms, X it on your card. First player to get five across wins. And if you really want to jazz it up, you can mark each of your words by taking a swig of your drink, or doing five burpees, or donating to your favorite charity or political candidate. Whatever gets you tipsy, in shape, or motivated, get the bingo cards here. It's fight night!

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    Join us today, September 29th, at 11 am ET for a GZERO Town Hall livestream event, Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic, to learn about the latest in the global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine.

    Watch here at 11am ET: https://www.gzeromedia.com/events/town-hall-ending-the-covid-19-pandemic-livestream/

    Our panel will discuss where things really stand on vaccine development, the political and economic challenges of distribution, and what societies need to be focused on until vaccine arrives in large scale. This event is the second in a series presented by GZERO Media in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group.

    Apoorva Mandavilli, science & global health reporter for the New York Times, will moderate a conversation with:

    • Lynda Stuart, Deputy Director, Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    • Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director, Energy, Climate & Resources, Eurasia Group
    • Mark Suzman, CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    • Gayle E. Smith, President & CEO, ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development

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