Coronavirus-Linked Hunger Could Cause 12,000 Deaths a Day, Study Finds

As many as 12,000 people around the world could die per day by the end of the year due to hunger linked to the coronavirus pandemic, Oxfam has warned in a new report.

Even before the pandemic began, hunger had been on the rise, with 821 million people estimated to be "food insecure" in 2019, according to Oxfam.

However, in its new report titled "The Hunger Virus," the organization suggests that as many as 121 million more people could be "pushed to the brink of starvation" this year due to the economic and social impacts of 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," Oxfam America President Abby Maxman said in a statement sent out by the organization.

Now, mass unemployment, disruptions to food protection and supplies and inadequate access to aid could put hundreds of thousands of more lives at risk.

Oxfam's report identifies ten "extreme hunger hotspots" around the world that have been particularly hard-hit by hunger due to the coronavirus pandemic: "Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Venezuela, the West African Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Haiti."

Countries such as Venezuela and South Sudan have seen food crises worsened as a result of the pandemic, the report warned, while "middle income countries" like India, South Africa, and Brazil have seen millions of people who were already struggling to get by pushed into poverty and hunger.

However, Oxfam said in a press release, the United States is also "not immune to this hunger crisis."

"The pandemic obliterated systems that had, for years, kept millions one small step away from poverty and food insecurity," Oxfam said. "Countless businesses shuttered, leaving millions unemployed and struggling to pay bills. Schools closed, removing reliable sources of breakfast and lunch for millions of students. The food chain faltered—from produce fields to meat plants—causing prices to rise."

"The awful truth is that food insecurity is exploding here in our own backyard," said Maxman. "Every town has people who are going to bed hungry right now. Those who were on the edge before are now struggling to stay afloat. In Mississippi, nearly a quarter of all residents are experiencing food insecurity; in Louisiana, over a third of all children are facing empty cupboards."

Oxfam's warning comes amid findings from a recent survey that found that nearly half of U.S. households have seen their income decline amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In the study conducted by Bankrate, a New York financial services company, and YouGov from June 18 to 23, 49 percent of adult participants said they had experienced a negative impact on their income during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Of that 49 percent, just 17 percent said their income has returned to normal since the outbreak began, while another 42 percent said they believed their finances would return to normal within six months. At least four percent believed their income would never recover.

In every region in the world, Oxfam said, women and women-headed households are more likely to be impacted by hunger.

"Women are already vulnerable because of systemic discrimination that sees them earn less and own fewer assets than men," the organization said. Further, it said, women "make up a large proportion of groups, such as informal workers, that have been hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic, and have also borne the brunt of a dramatic increase in unpaid care work as a result of school closures and family illness."

While people around the world continue to suffer, Maxman said, "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–more than ten times the current [United Nations] appeal to stop people going hungry," the Oxfam America president said.

"Governments must contain the spread of this deadly disease, but it is equally vital they take action to stop the pandemic killing as many–if not more–people from hunger," said Eric Muñoz, the senior manager of food and climate justice at Oxfam America.

"Governments can save lives now by fully funding the UN's COVID-19 appeal, making sure aid gets to those who need it most, and cancelling the debts of developing countries to free up funding for social protection and healthcare," Muñoz said.

"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," Muñoz said.

Food bank
Volunteers prepare to load vehicles with boxes of food at a food bank in the Los Angeles County city of Duarte, California on July 8, 2020 as the record for most coronavirus cases in a single day is set in California. Oxfam has warned that as many as 12,000 people around the world could die per day by the end of the year due to hunger related to the COVID-19 pandemic. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty

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