Hunger linked to Covid-19 could kill millions more than pandemic, warns Oxfam

By Hoai An - Jul 14, 2020 | 11:49 AM GMT+7

TheLEADERThe report of humanitarian group Oxfam reveals that the social and economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic as mass unemployment, disruption to food production and supplies and declining aid could push 121 million people to the brink of starvation this year.

Up to 12,000 people could die each day by the end of the year because of hunger linked to Covid-19, potentially more than could die from the illness itself, Oxfam warns. 

The global observed daily mortality rate for Covid-19 reached its highest recorded point in April 2020 at just over 10,000 deaths per day.

Oxfam’s interim executive director Chema Vera said that 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.

Meanwhile, those at the top are continuing to make a profit. Eight of the biggest food and drink companies paid out over $18 billion to shareholders since January even as the pandemic was spreading across the globe – ten times more than the UN says is needed to stop people going hungry, the report said. 

Women, and women-headed households, are more likely to go hungry. Photo: Oxfam.

In some of the world’s worst hunger hotspots as Venezuela and South Sudan, the food crisis is worsening because of the pandemic. In middle-income countries, for example India, South Africa and Brazil, millions of people who were barely managing have been tipped over the edge by Covid-19.

For example, millions of poor workers in Brazil, with little in the way of savings or benefits to fall back on, lost their incomes because of lockdown. Only ten per cent of the financial support promised by the federal government had been distributed by late June with big business favored over workers and smaller more vulnerable companies.

In India, travel restrictions left farmers without vital migrant labour at the peak of the harvest season, forcing many to leave their crops in the field to rot. Traders have also been unable to reach tribal communities during the peak harvest season for forest products, depriving up to 100 million people of their main source of income for the year.

Job losses across the Gulf region leads to 80 per cent-drop of remittances in Yemen in the first four months of this year. Borders and supply route closures have led to food shortages and food price spikes in the country which imports 90 per cent of its food.

Oxfam noted that women, and women-headed households, are more likely to go hungry because they make up a large proportion of hard-hit groups as informal workers and have also borne the brunt of a dramatic increase in unpaid care work as a result of school closures and family illness.

“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,” stated Vera.

He added that governments can save lives now by fully funding the UN’s Covid-19 appeal, making sure aid gets to those who need it most, and cancelling the debts of developing countries to free up funding for social protection and healthcare.

To end this hunger crisis, governments must also build fairer, more robust, and more sustainable food systems, that put the interests of food producers and workers before the profits of big food and agribusiness.