Oxfam International has warned that hunger that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic could kill about 12,000 people a day by the end of 2020. This could end up claiming more lives than COVID-19 itself. The organization revealed that about 121 million people globally could starve as a result of the social and economic fallout due to the pandemic.
Lydia Zigomo, Oxfam’s Regional Director said: “DRC, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan were all already facing humanitarian emergencies and urgently needed funding when the pandemic hit. Continuing debt, at a time when many governments are already economically devastated and responding to the pandemic, mean efforts to curb hunger will be extremely challenged. Donor governments should fully fund the UN’s COVID-19 humanitarian appeal to mitigate the additional food security impacts of COVID-19. The G20 Finance Ministers, meeting later in July 2020 must take bold and urgent action to ensure that private creditors and multilateral lenders cancel all debt payments in the region for 2020 and 2021.”
In DRC, where 15.6 million people are food insecure, the price of locally produced goods, such as maize, cassava, and sorghum, had risen nearly 50% by April 2020, compared to the same month the previous year. In Ethiopia, where 8 million people are food insecure, an estimated 356,000 metric tons of cereal crops and 1.3 million hectares of pastureland have been lost to locusts to date. Movement restrictions slowed measures to control the swarms and impacted the food supply chain.
In Sudan, where 5.9 million people were already food insecure in 2019, COVID-19 has contributed to hunger. In the current period of June to September 2020, an estimated 9.6 million people are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity and need urgent action
In South Sudan, where 7 million people are already food insecure, seven years of protracted conflict and violent extremism has forced millions from their homes and had a devastating impact on domestic food production in a country where 80% of people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.
More recently, swarms of desert locusts have been devouring crops and pasture, with fears that the plague? already in the hundreds of billions ? will grow further.
With the humanitarian response underfunded, declining tax revenues, and falling prices of commodities such as oil, currently available funds are not sufficient to address the deepening hunger crisis. Oxfam is calling for the cancellation of all external debt payments due to be made in 2020 and 2021 as the fastest way to free up resources needed to save millions from hunger and ensure livelihoods are rebuilt.
In April, the G20 approved a one-year debt suspension to some countries in the region. While this provides some relief for governments and frees up funds to support recovery, this suspension is inadequate. It should be extended to all forms of multilateral and privately held debt. Rather than suspending payments, lenders should cancel payments for 2020 and 2021.