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Hunger death toll outpaces COVID's, says Oxfam

July 9, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic, climate crisis and conflicts have pushed more than half a million people to the brink of starvation, Oxfam reported. Cutting new military spending by less than 20% would end global hunger.

A mother with two of her children holds a bowl of food in the village of Ankilimarovahatsy, Madagascar
A steep rise in food prices has worsened the global hunger crisis, Oxfam reportedImage: Laetitia Bezain/AP/picture alliance

The number of people facing famine-like conditions worldwide has increased sixfold over the last year, according to a report released Friday by the anti-poverty organization Oxfam.

"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," said Oxfam America's President and CEO Abby Maxman.

What are the figures?

Oxfam reported that 11 people die of hunger each minute, outpacing the death toll of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed around seven people per minute.

"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," Oxfam said in a statement.

The report said the number of people around the globe living with "extreme hunger" increased from last year by around 20 million to 155 million.

More than half a million people are living in "famine-like conditions" around the world, the report added. 

What is fueling the crisis?

Around two-thirds of the 155 million facing hunger live in countries with military conflict. 

Oxfam said that despite the pandemic, global military spending has increased in the past year by $51 billion (€43 billion) — six times more than the UN says it needs to stop hunger.

According to the report, the economic effects of the pandemic, combined with global warming, caused a 40% increase in global food prices — the highest in over a decade.

Map of Extreme hunger hotspots

Hunger 'hot spots'?

Oxfam listed several countries it considered "the world's worst hunger hot spots," where existing food crises were worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen —  all torn by conflict — have had a "surge in extreme levels of hunger since last year," the report said.

Venezuela, the Central African Republic and the Sahel were also on Oxfam's hotspot list, as well as  India and Brazil, which are grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

fb/sms (AFP, AP)