The global coronavirus pandemic could lead to more deaths worldwide through hunger than from the disease itself, humanitarian group Oxfam warned on Thursday.
The coronavirus outbreak has worsened the hunger crisis in the world’s poorest regions and up to 12,000 people could die each day from hunger linked to the social and economic effects of the pandemic.
Its report said mass unemployment, disruption to food production and declining aid as a result of the pandemic could push an estimated 121 million people to the brink of starvation this year.
‘The knock-on impacts of COVID-19 are far more widespread than the virus itself, pushing millions of the world’s poorest people deeper into hunger and poverty,’ said the group’s chief executive, Danny Sriskandarajah.
‘It is vital governments contain the spread of this deadly disease, but they must also prevent it killing as many – if not more – people from hunger.’
Yemen is currently at the centre of what is considered to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with more than 24 million people in need of humanitarian aid. A Yemeni doctor checks up a premature-newborn baby who lies inside an incubator in order to be given medical attention in the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in Sana’a, Yemen, 30 June 2020
Humanitarian organisation Oxfam, pictured above (file photo) has warned that hunger as a result of the coronavirus crisis could result in more deaths worldwide than the virus itself as it closes borders and supply chains and prevents aid from reaching those in need
The charity said that in some of the world’s worst hunger ‘hot spots,’ including Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and South Sudan, the food crisis is worsening because of border and supply route closures or a huge drop in remittances as result of the pandemic.
In middle-income countries like India, South Africa and Brazil, millions of people who had been ‘just about managing have been tipped over the edge.’
Even in developed countries like Britain, the report said, up to 3.7 million adults sought charity food or used a food bank during the first weeks of lockdown restrictions.
Oxfam cited the World Food Programme in estimating that the number of people experiencing crisis-level hunger will rise to 270 million before the end of this year, a jump of 82 percent from 149 million in 2019.
The World Food Programme estimates that the number of people experiencing crisis levels of hunger will rise by 82 percent globally – expecting the number to increase to 270 million in 2020 from 149 million in 2019. Above, volunteers of the Lagos Food Bank offload some of the transported packed boxes of food and other relief materials
Meanwhile, eight of the world’s largest food and drink companies have paid out over £14 billion to shareholders since January 2020
It said that women, and women-headed households, are more likely to go hungry because they make up a large proportion of hard-hit groups such as informal workers and also have borne the brunt of an increase in unpaid care work as a result of school closures and family illness.
‘COVID-19 is the last 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,’ said Oxfam’s Interim Executive Director Chema Vera.
Vera noted that while the poorest in the world suffer from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the richest continue to profit.
Eight of the world’s largest food and drink companies have paid out over $18 billion (£14 billion) to shareholders since January, Oxfam reported, even as the pandemic spreads further across the globe.
The figure is ten times more than what has been requested by the UN COVID-19 appeal to help prevent the hunger crisis.
‘Governments must contain the spread of this deadly disease but it is equally vital they take action to stop the pandemic killing as many – if not more – people from hunger,’ said Vera.
Mass unemployment, disruption to food production and declining aid as a result of the pandemic could push up an estimated 121 million people to the brink of starvation by the end of the year. Above, Springbok Women’s Sevens captain Zintle Mpupha works to hand out food at a food bank in Cape Town, South Africa
Pictured: A woman carries a food hamper, masks, soap and sanitiser during a distribution organised by different charities at the Iterileng informal settlement near Pretoria, South Africa
Speaking to the charity, Kadidia Diallo, a milk producer in Burkina Faso, shared her experiences of struggling to keep her family fed during the pandemic.
‘COVID-19 is causing us a lot of harm. Giving my children something to eat in the morning has become difficult. We are totally dependent on the sale of milk, and with the closure of the market we can’t sell the milk anymore,’ she said, adding ‘If we don’t sell milk, we don’t eat.’
Oxfam highlighted the situations in Brazil, India, Yemen and Sahel – the African area between the Sahara and Sudanain Sahara – as being of particular concern.
In Brazil, it said, only 10 percent of the aid promised by the government had been distributed by the end of June to its citizens, with larger businesses being prioritised over workers and the more vulnerable companies.
Meanwhile, in India, travel restrictions led to a migrant worker shortage leaving farmers with no option but to leave their crops to rot, while traders have been unable to reach tribal communities during the peak harvest season.
This has deprived more than 100 million people of their main sources of income for the year, Oxfam says.
In India, travel restrictions meant that millions of migrant workers were unable to work on farms, leaving farmers with no choice but to let their crops rot. Above, migrant workers and their families in India, who had left cities during lockdown, walk at a platform after they returned from their home state of Uttar Pradesh
Yemen, currently at the centre of what is considered to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with more than 24 million people in need of humanitarian aid, has seen its remittances fall by 80 percent- around £200 million – in the first four months of 2020.
Border and supply route closures in Sahel have also resulted in food shortages and food price hikes in the already struggling country that imports 90 percent of its food.
Yemen is ranked 190 out of 195 countries in the world for its Global health preparedness, with 53 percent of its population facing crisis levels of hunger or worse in 2019.
Restrictions of movement across Sahel have prevented herders from moving their livestock to greener pastures to feed, thus threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in the vast region.
Of the £2.2 billion needed in Sahel to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, just 26 percent has been pledged.
Yemen is ranked 190 out of 195 countries in the world for its Global health preparedness, with 53 percent of its population facing crisis levels of hunger or worse in 2019. Above, people dig graves at a cemetery where victims of coronavirus are buried in Taiz, Yemen June 23, 2020
Pictured: Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) distributes food aid to Yatim Children Care Center in Ethiopia as part of their Ramadan campaign, on May 21, 2020
The knock-on effect of the coronavirus crisis also extends further than increased rates of hunger.
In late April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the coronavirus could indirectly result in more than double the number of deaths from Malaria and other preventable diseases as the virus disrupts vaccination efforts.
In a media briefing in April, the WHO’s director general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, said that while children are believed to be at a relatively low risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus, they are at high risk of other diseases that can be prevented with vaccines during the crisis – particularly in Africa.
As the world desperately works to develop a vaccination against the coronavirus, production of other vaccinations is falling short while restrictions on travel both internationally and domestically limit access to vaccinations and treatments for other diseases.
In April, World Health Organisation’s (WHO) director general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus warned that while children are at a relatively low risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus, they are at high risk of other diseases that can be prevented with vaccines during the crisis
Dr Ghebreyesus highlighted malaria in particular, and how modelling analysis published last week estimated that 41 countries in sub-Saharan Africa could see disruption to their malaria services as a result of Covid-19.
‘In the worst case scenario, the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could double,’ he said during a press conference in which he shared the results of the analysis.
Currently, 116 million children are vaccinated every year around the world, which is 86 per cent of all children born. However, more than 13 million infants are unable to be vaccinated, and this number could increase with Covid-19.
In another example, the WHO’s director general said that polio vaccination campaigns, that vaccinate up to 12 million children in Africa, had been put on hold in some countries due to the coronavirus.