Hunger Could Claim More Lives Than Coronavirus – Oxfam


·         Says World on the brink of a ‘hunger pandemic’

About four months after a young taxi driver cried out in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital, that “hunger virus pass coronavirus” (hunger virus is greater/more dangerous than coronavirus), Oxfam International has come out with the alarming confirmation that the coronavirus pandemic has added fuel to the fire of the growing crisis of hunger.

Oxfam, in its monthly newsletter, July 2020 edition, stated that combined with ongoing conflicts, spiraling inequality, and an escalating climate crisis, the coronavirus has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities and shaken an already broken food system to its foundations thereby leaving millions more on the brink of starvation.

According to Oxfam, it is estimated that the number of people in crisis level hunger will rise to 270 million before the end of the year, an 82% increase since 2019.

It identified the Sahel region of West Africa, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal as one of the hotspots of hunger globally, saying that for the last 11 years, the region is on record to have the fastest growing hunger crisis in the world, with some 13.4 million people estimated to be in immediate need of food assistance.

Oxfam noted that the coronavirus pandemic could tip more than 50 million additional people into a food and nutritional crisis in the Sahel region largely due to the closure of borders which it said has led to sharp increases in the prices of imported food and agricultural products in addition to imposed lockdown measures having significant impact on producers.

Other extreme hunger hotspots identified by Oxfam where the food crisis is most severe and getting worse because of the coronavirus pandemic include Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Haiti. Combined with countries in the Sahel region of West Africa, these countries, Oxfam said, account for 65 percent of people facing crisis level hunger globally.

It also revealed that new hunger hotspots are also emerging in middle-income countries such as India, South Africa, and Brazil all of which are experiencing rapidly rising levels of hunger.

“If we don’t act now, up to 12,000 people per day could die from hunger linked to the social and economic impacts of the pandemic before the end of the year, perhaps more than will die each day from the disease.

“Since the pandemic started, Oxfam has reached 4.5 million of the world’s most vulnerable people with food and clean water, working together with over 344 partners across 62 countries,” the newsletter noted, arguing that poor communities around the world are sending a clear, urgent and repeated message: “Hunger may kill us before coronavirus”.

Oxfam calls on governments, well-meaning individuals and organisations to work together as had been done in the past months of fighting the coronavirus pandemic to bring the number of Covid-19 cases to zero, stating: “Now, we need a similar massive effort to reduce hunger to zero.”

Oxfam noted that in addition to increased unemployment, the severe effect on the activities of smallholder farmers, who are the backbone of local food systems in many developing countries, is also responsible for the hunger pandemic. “They [smallholder farmers] have been severely affected by lockdown restrictions limiting their ability to access their land, to plant or harvest crops, or access markets to sell their produce or buy seeds and tools. There are also worrying signs that some companies are using the pandemic to take advantage of consumers. Consumer prices are going up in many countries as a result of disruptions to local production and supply chains, inflation, panic buying and allegations of price gouging,” said Oxfam.

It added that across continents, women are likely to be the first to go hungry whilst bearing the responsibility of feeding their families.

It Said: “They make up a significant proportion of groups such as informal workers or smallholder producers that have been hit hardest by the economic fallout of Covid-19. Moreover, they are often the most vulnerable within these vulnerable groups because of the systemic barriers they face such as discrimination in land ownership and pay. Added to this is women’s unpaid care and domestic unpaid care workload, which has risen dramatically in recent months as a result of illness and school closures.”


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