Oxfam warns hunger could kill more people than Covid-19

More people could die from hunger as a result of the coronavirus pandemic than from the disease itself, an international charity warns.

Its report said mass unemployment, disruption to food production and declining aid as a result of the pandemic could push an estimated 122 million people to the brink of starvation this year.

It says middle-income countries such as South Africa, India and Brazil, have also been badly hit, with many people losing their jobs during lockdown.

The group’s chief executive, Danny Sriskandarajah said: “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."

“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.”

Oxfam says this is more than the peak global coronavirus death rate of 10,000 per day in April.

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.

The charity also claims $18bn (£13bn) has been paid to shareholders by eight of the biggest food and beverage firms this year.

It says that amounts to more than 10 times the funding needed for food and agriculture assistance to the most vulnerable communities in the UN's Covid-19 appeal.

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.

Since the pandemic began, Oxfam says it has helped 4.5 million of the world’s most vulnerable people with food aid and clean water, working together with over 344 partners across 62 countries.

The international agency aims to reach a total of 14 million people by raising a further £90 million ($113m).

Meanwhile, traders have been unable to reach tribal Indian communities during the peak harvest season for forest products, leaving up to 100 million people deprived of their main source of income.

In Yemen, remittances in the first four months of 2020 dropped by 80% or £200 million ($253 million) as a result of mass job losses across the Gulf.

Last year Yemen received £3 billion ($3.8 billion) in remittances, equivalent to 13% of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The economic downturn in neighbouring Iran and border closures have also hit food supplies and caused a drop in remittances.