CHARITY Oxfam has warned that as many as 12,000 people could die every day from hunger as a result of the economic crisis precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the globe.
Following the outbreak, almost every country on earth introduced a lockdown, shutting down industry, banning flights, closing its airports and only allowed essential workers to continue working. Over the last month, the lockdown has been eased but economic activity is yet to get back to pre-coronavirus levels.
In its latest report, Oxfam warned that by the end of the year, 12,000 people per day could die from hunger linked to Covid-19. It added that coronavirus is deepening the crisis in the world’s hunger hotspots and creating new hunger epicentres.
Oxfam’s report highlights the 10 extreme hunger hotspots where the food crisis is most severe and getting worse as a result of the pandemic. These include Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the West African Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Haiti.
It added: “The pandemic is the final straw for millions of people already struggling with the impacts of conflict, climate change, inequality and a broken food system that has impoverished millions of food producers and workers. Meanwhile, those at the top are continuing to make a profit, as eight of the biggest food and drink companies paid out over $18bn to shareholders since January even as the pandemic was spreading across the globe.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has added fuel to the fire of an already growing hunger crisis as even before the pandemic struck, hunger was on the rise. In 2019, 821m people were estimated to be food insecure, of which approximately 149m suffered crisis-level hunger or worse.
“Now the coronavirus has combined with the impacts of conflict, spiralling inequality and an escalating climate crisis to shake an already broken global food system to its foundations, leaving millions more on the brink of starvation. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that the number of people experiencing crisis-level hunger will rise to 270m before the end of the year as a result of the pandemic, an 82% increase since 2019.
“New hunger hotspots are also emerging. Middle-income countries such as India, South Africa and Brazil are experiencing rapidly rising levels of hunger as millions of people that were just about managing have been tipped over the edge by the pandemic.
“Even the world’s richest countries are not immune. Data from the UK government shows that during the first few weeks of the lockdown as many as 7.7m adults reduced their meal portion sizes or missed meals and up to 3.7m adults sought charity food or used a food bank.”
Oxfam said to save lives now and in the future, governments must fully fund the United Nation’s (UN) humanitarian appeal, build fairer, more resilient and more sustainable food systems, beginning with a high-level global food crisis summit when the Committee on World Food Security meets in October. It also called for the promotion of women’s participation and leadership in decisions on how to fix the broken food system, cancel debts to allow lower-income countries put social protection measures in place, support the UN’s call for a global ceasefire and take urgent action to tackle the climate crisis.