LONDON - The coronavirus outbreak has worsened the hunger crisis in the world's poorest corners, and up to 12,000 people could die each day from hunger linked to the social and economic effects of the pandemic, the humanitarian group Oxfam warned Thursday.
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.
"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," said the group's chief executive, Danny Sriskandarajah. "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."
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. In middle-income countries like India, South Africa and Brazil, millions of people who had been "just about managing have been tipped over the edge."
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.
Oxfam cited the World Food Program in estimating that the number of people experiencing crisis-level hunger will rise to 270 million before the end of this year, a jump from 149 million in 2019.
It said that women, and women-headed households, are more likely to go hungry because they make up a large proportion of hard-hit groups such as informal workers and also have borne the brunt of an increase in unpaid care work as a result of school closures and family illness.