The number of people suffering acute hunger could almost double to more than 265 million because of the economic impact of coronavirus, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) is warning.

In a statement released Tuesday, the WFP said “swift action” was needed to stop this becoming a reality.

“Covid-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread. It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage,” WFP’s Senior Economist Arif Husain said.

“Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like Covid-19 – to push them over the edge. We must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe.”

The latest report from the WFP says that in some countries, those most vulnerable to food insecurity have “very limited” capacity to cope with the shock caused by the pandemic.

“These countries may face an excruciating trade-off between saving lives or livelihoods or, in a worst-case scenario, saving people from the coronavirus to have them die from hunger,” the report warns.