More people could die from COVID-19-related hunger than the disease itself, Oxfam warns

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More people could die from COVID-19-related hunger than the disease itself, warns a report from campaigning group Oxfam International.

As many as 12,000 people a day could die from hunger linked to COVID-19 by the end of the year, according to ‘The Hunger Virus’ report.

The group, which aims to alleviate global poverty, notes that the global mortality rate for COVID-19 reached its highest recorded point in April, at just over 10,000 deaths per day.


Oxfam also warns that the economic fallout from COVID-19 could push an additional 121 million people to the brink of starvation this year.

A Syrian boy looks through the handle of a cooking bowl as people queue to receive food aid in Idlib, Syria on October 07, 2019 – file photo.
(Photo by Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The report cites 10 extreme hunger hotspots as areas of major concern: Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Venezuela, the West African Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Haiti.

Oxfam also cites "emerging epicenters of hunger," such as Brazil, India and South Africa, where millions of people “who were barely managing have been tipped over the edge by the pandemic.”

“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,” says Oxfam’s interim executive director Chema Vera, in a statement. “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 ― 10 times more than the U.N. says is needed to stop people going hungry.”

Oxfam is urging governments to take action to contain the spread of the disease and its impact on poverty.

“Governments can save lives now by fully funding the U.N.’s COVID-19 appeal, making sure aid gets to those who need it most, and canceling the debts of developing countries to free up funding for social protection and health care,” Vera says in the statement. “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.”

The U.N. and its partners are seeking $6.7 billion in their COVID-19 appeal for vulnerable countries.

As of Thursday morning, more than 12 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with over 3 million in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The disease has accounted for at least 549,900 deaths around the world, including at least 132,309 in the U.S.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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