In this Tuesday, May 11, 2021 file photo, Abeba Gebru, 37, from the village of Getskimilesley, holds the hands of her malnourished daughter, Tigsti Mahderekal, 20 days old, in the treatment tent of a medical clinic in the town of Abi Adi, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.
CAIRO — The anti-poverty organization Oxfam says 11 people die of hunger each minute and that the number facing famine-like conditions around the globe has increased six times over the last year.
In a report titled “The Hunger Virus Multiplies,” Oxfam said Thursday that the death toll from famine outpaces that of COVID-19, which kills around seven people per minute.
“The statistics are staggering, but we must remember that these figures are made up of individual people facing unimaginable suffering. Even one person is too many,” said Oxfam America’s President and CEO Abby Maxman.
The humanitarian group also said that 155 million people around the world now live at crisis levels of food insecurity or worse — some 20 million more than last year. Around two-thirds of them face hunger because their country is in military conflict.
“Today, unrelenting conflict on top of the COVID-19 economic fallout, and a worsening climate crisis, has pushed more than 520,000 people to the brink of starvation,” added Maxman. “Instead of battling the pandemic, warring parties fought each other, too often landing the last blow to millions already battered by weather disasters and economic shocks.”
Despite the pandemic, Oxfam said that global military spending increased by $51 billion during the pandemic — an amount that exceeds by at least six times what the U.N. needs to stop hunger.
The report listed a number of countries as “the worst hunger hot spots” including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — all embroiled in conflict.
“Starvation continues to be used as a weapon of war, depriving civilians of food and water and impeding humanitarian relief. People can’t live safely or find food when their markets are being bombed and crops and livestock are destroyed,” said Maxman.
The organization urged governments to stop conflicts from continuing to spawn “catastrophic hunger” and to ensure that relief agencies could operate in conflict zones and reach those in need. It also called on donor countries to “immediately and fully” fund the U.N.’s efforts to alleviate hunger.
Meanwhile, global warming and the economic repercussions of the pandemic have caused a 40% increase in global food prices, the highest in over a decade. This surge has contributed significantly to pushing tens of millions more people into hunger, said the report.