Oxfam: Eleven people die of hunger each minute

More than half a million people are living in 'famine-like conditions' around the world

Achta Bintou holds up the food she will be cooking for her five children in Chad. Oxfam
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The number of people facing famine-like conditions around the globe has increased sixfold over the past year, according to anti-poverty organisation Oxfam.

In a report titled The Hunger Virus Multiplies, Oxfam said 11 people die of hunger each minute.

It means the death toll from famine outpaces that of Covid-19, which kills around seven people per minute.

The report listed a number of countries as “the worst hunger hot spots” including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated existing crises sparked by conflict and climate change - the "three lethal Cs" - according to the group.

"Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, vulnerable communities around the world have been sending a clear, urgent and repeated message: 'Hunger may kill us before coronavirus'. Today, deaths from hunger are outpacing the virus," it said.

The group identified places including Yemen, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Venezuela and Syria as countries where existing food crises had been worsened by the onset of the pandemic and its economic consequences.

"Mass unemployment and severely disrupted food production have led to a 40 percent rise in global food prices, the largest increase in more than a decade," Oxfam said.

In total, it said over half a million people are living in "famine-like conditions" around the world, while 155 million live with "extreme hunger" - the equivalent of the combined populations of France and Germany.

Of the 155 million, two out of three live in a country with ongoing war or conflict.

Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB chief executive, said: “The world cannot stand by while global hunger levels soar and half a million people face starvation due to the confluence of unrelenting conflict, Covid-19’s economic fall-out and a worsening climate crisis.

“Governments urgently need to do more to prevent conflict in the first place and to support those caught up in the crossfire, by providing funding and stepping in to ensure aid agencies can get vital humanitarian assistance where it is needed.

“It is unacceptable that starvation is often used as a weapon of war, with millions of people forced to flee their homes, their crops and livestock destroyed, and combatants denying them even the lifeline of humanitarian aid. The UN Security Council should hold to account all those who use this barbaric tactic.”

Oxfam America’s President and CEO Abby Maxman said: “The statistics are staggering, but we must remember that these figures are made up of individual people facing unimaginable suffering. Even one person is too many.”

The humanitarian group also said that 155 million people around the world now live at crisis levels of food insecurity or worse — some 20 million more than last year. Around two-thirds of them face hunger because their country is in military conflict.

“Today, unrelenting conflict on top of the COVID-19 economic fallout, and a worsening climate crisis, has pushed more than 520,000 people to the brink of starvation,” added Ms Maxman. “Instead of battling the pandemic, warring parties fought each other, too often landing the last blow to millions already battered by weather disasters and economic shocks.”

Despite the pandemic, Oxfam said that global military spending increased by $51 billion during the pandemic — an amount that exceeds by at least six times what the UN needs to stop hunger.

“Starvation continues to be used as a weapon of war, depriving civilians of food and water and impeding humanitarian relief. People can’t live safely or find food when their markets are being bombed and crops and livestock are destroyed,” said Maxman.

The organisation urged governments to stop conflicts from continuing to spawn “catastrophic hunger” and to ensure that relief agencies could operate in conflict zones and reach those in need. It also called on donor countries to “immediately and fully” fund the UN’s efforts to alleviate hunger.

Meanwhile, global warming and the economic repercussions of the pandemic have caused a 40 per cent increase in global food prices, the highest in over a decade. This surge has contributed significantly to pushing tens of millions more people into hunger, said the report.

Oxfam's analysis comes ahead of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization's own report on global food security, due to be published on Monday.

Updated: July 09, 2021, 9:31 AM