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Famine ‘not fake news’: WFP head laments media’s Trump focus

The new head of the World Food Programme (WFP) David Beasley, delivers a press conference about an updated aid appeal for South Sudan on Monday at the United Nations Office in Geneva. (AFP)
GENEVA: The former South Carolina governor who now heads the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) said the media’s focus on President Donald Trump is taking away attention from the risk of famine in Africa and the Middle East.
“This is not fake news, this is reality,” said WFP Director-General David Beasley.
Beasley, a Republican whose March appointment was supported by the Trump administration, spoke to reporters Monday after his organization and the UN refugee agency updated an appeal for $1.4 billion to help refugees fleeing South Sudan.
Beasley cited a need to “rise above all the confusion,” particularly in “high-donor states” like the US.
“I mean literally if you turn on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN — it is nothing but Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump!” he said, referring to US TV networks. “And very little information about the
famines in Syria, northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen.”
“We have got to break through all of the smoke,” he said. “This is not fake news, this is reality.”
The UN says roughly 20 million people in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen are facing possible famine.
“We are making an appeal today for the donors to step up to the game even more,” Beasley said, warning about access difficulties likely in the upcoming rainy season in South Sudan, amid already-difficult access caused by violence in the world’s newest country.
He said that before agreeing to take the job, he had canvassed Congressional leaders to gauge their commitment to WFP, and found it “tremendous.”
But he also alluded to speculation about future US funding. The Trump administration has proposed cuts for UN programs as part of its plan to reduce the State Department’s budget by roughly one-third.