World hunger rose steeply in 2020, with six times more people living in “famine-like conditions” than in 2019, rights group Oxfam said Friday.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated existing crises sparked by conflict and climate change – the “three lethal Cs” – according to the group.
“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,” it said in a statement.
Oxfam calculates that 11 people a minute are likely dying from acute hunger, compared to seven people a minute from Covid-19.
The group identified places including Yemen, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Venezuela and Syria as countries where existing food crises had been worsened by the onset of the pandemic and its economic consequences.
“Mass unemployment and severely disrupted food production have led to a 40% rise in global food prices, the largest increase in more than a decade,” Oxfam said.
In total, it said over half a million people are living in “famine-like conditions” around the world, while 155 million live with “extreme hunger” – the equivalent of the combined populations of France and Germany.
Of the 155 million, two out of three live in a country with ongoing war or conflict.
“Conflict remained the biggest driver of hunger around the globe for three consecutive years, including during the pandemic,” the group said.
“We are currently seeing the superimposition of crises: unceasing conflicts, the economic consequences of Covid-19 and a spiralling climate crisis,” said Helene Botreau, agriculture and food security advocacy officer at Oxfam France.
Oxfam’s analysis comes ahead of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s own report on global food security, due to be published on Monday.