Prompted by a challenge from Tesla founder Elon Musk, the United Nations has released a plan for how it would spend nearly $7 billion to combat hunger around the world.
The proposal comes three weeks after David Beasley, executive director of the U.N.’s World Food Programme, or WFP, told CNN that roughly 2% of Musk’s $279 billion net worth could help end hunger. He later specified in a tweet that a $6.6 billion donation would “avert famine” next year.
After seeing the interview, Musk said on Twitter that he would immediately sell shares of the electric car company, which is worth more than $1 trillion, if the U.N. could explain how the money would “solve” hunger.
“If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6 billion will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it,” tweeted Musk, who Bloomberg ranks as the richest person in the world.
If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 31, 2021
Beasley defended his comments in a reply to Musk on Twitter and told the entrepreneur that “with your help, we can bring hope, build stability and change the future.”
“Let’s talk,” Beasley tweeted to Musk, a South Africa native. “It isn’t as complicated as Falcon Heavy, but too much is at stake to not at least have a conversation.”
About $3.5 billion of a roughly $6 billion donation would go toward buying food for people mostly in Africa and the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen, according to the U.N. The money would also fund the distribution of food in those and other countries by air, river or truck.
All told, the U.N. said its proposed plan would feed 42 million starving people. The WFP proposal also calls for:
- Spending $700 million on creating food voucher programs in 43 countries where such assistance doesn’t currently exist, including “office and satellite-office facilities and their security, and the monitoring of distributions and results, ensuring the assistance reaches the most vulnerable.”
- Spending $2 billion on cash and food vouchers in countries where those programs already exist.
- Spending $400 million on beefing up global supply-chain logistics and creating a monitoring system to track worldwide hunger.
The proposal doesn’t break down how much money, if any, would go toward combating hunger in the U.S.
Food security among U.S. children rising 04:04
The U.N. emphasized that $6 billion would not eradicate world hunger. But the money would provide one meal a day to millions of people facing famine, according to the organization.
Almost 283 million people across 80 countries face extreme hunger, WFP said, up from 135 million people in 58 countries in 2019, prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Africa remains the continent most impacted by hunger, accounting for 63% of the people experiencing food insecurity at a “crisis” level or worse, according to a 2020 WFP report. Yet although the pandemic has fueled global hunger, the three main causes are war, extreme weather events and economic shocks.
Famine on the rise
Beasley tweeted Monday that the number of people facing famine around the world continues to rise and that the U.N. proposal is accepting of anyone willing to help fund it.
“This hunger crisis is urgent, unprecedented and avoidable,” Beasley tweeted, telling Musk that “we’re ready to talk with you — and anyone else — who is serious about saving lives. The ask is $6.6 billion to avert famine in 2022.”
Musk so far hasn’t responded to the U.N.’s proposal. However, he recently has sold a significant number of his Tesla shares. Musk sold about 4.5 million shares last week, cashing in about $5 billion. A day later he sold another 640,000 shares for about $687 million.
Khristopher J. Brooks
Khristopher J. Brooks is a reporter for CBS MoneyWatch covering business, consumer and financial stories that range from economic inequality and housing issues to bankruptcies and the business of sports.