File photo: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas after a meeting in Berlin, Germany, December 17, 2020. Reuters
Millions of people around the world risk dying of hunger, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday, adding that climate change and Covid-19 had worsened the threat.
"Without immediate action, millions of people will reach the brink of extreme hunger and death," Guterres told the Security Council during a meeting on the links between food and security.
Guterres said more than 30 million people in more than three dozen countries are "just one step away from a declaration of famine."
"Climate shocks and the COVID-19 pandemic are adding fuel to the flames," he said.
"I have one simple message: if you don't feed people, you feed conflict.
"Famine and hunger are no longer about lack of food. They are now largely man-made -- and I use the term deliberately.
"There is no place for famine and starvation in the 21st century."
At the end of 2020, more than 88 million people were suffering from acute hunger due to conflict and instability -- a 20 percent increase in one year, he said, pointing to a worsening trend in 2021.
High-risk zones include the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, South Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan.
Guterres announced he was launching a taskforce "to avert catastrophe" after the World Food Program and UN Food and Agriculture Organization appealed for emergency mobilization of $5.5 billion.