Nearly 14 million people are at risk of severe hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean because of the effects of the coronavirus, according to the latest UN report.

The World Food Program (WFP) estimated in a report Wednesday that the number of people experiencing severe food insecurity could quadruple from 3.4 million to 13.7 million in 2020, based on country-based analysis.

As the curve for the COVID-19 pandemic flattens or falls in many parts of the world, the virus continues to surge across the region. The World Health Organization has already recognized it as the “new epicenter” of the pandemic.

Across South America and the Caribbean, there are more than 852,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 46,000 deaths. Brazil stands out as the worst-hit country with almost half of the infections and deaths.

The WFP said it ran projects in Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Peru and developing island in the Caribbean.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean also projected a -5.3% drop in the region’s economy and said the effects will likely hit hard those who rely on daily earnings from jobs in the informal sector. In Bolivia, it means up to 60% of the population.

The WFP’s recent survey in nine countries found 69% of 41,000 participants said their incomes reduced during the pandemic.

The report warned that COVID-19 could increase severe food insecurity among Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru from 540,000 to more than 1 million.

Haiti was also among areas of particular concern, where the number facing severe food insecurity could rise from 700,000 to 1.6 million.

In the Dry Corridor of Central America on the Pacific coast from southern Mexico to Panama, it could increase from more than 1.6 million to close to 3 million.

The approaching hurricane season in the Caribbean poses a high risk as well.

The UN agency underlined the closure of schools because of coronavirus measures has forced children to miss nutritious lunches in some countries where “the only proper meals many of them could count on.”

The WFP urged the expansion of social protection programs to cover additional needs of current beneficiaries and to cater for new groups.

“WFP stands ready to help governments in ensuring their social-protection nets are up to the challenge posed by COVID-19,” said Regional Director Miguel Barreto.

The WFP started the #MissingThisMeal hashtag campaign to help those in need during the pandemic.

Last week a similar report was released by another organization. By the end of 2020, around 30 million people will be pushed into poverty in Latin America and 215 million across the Latin American and Caribbean region, predicted the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in its special COVID-19 report presented on May 21.

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