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11 people die of hunger each minute around the globe, Oxfam says

Malnourished infant's hands in her mother's palm
Abeba Gebru, 37, holds the hands of her malnourished 20-day-old daughter at a medical clinic in northern Ethiopia.
(Ben Curtis / Associated Press)

Eleven people die of hunger each minute around the globe and the number facing famine-like conditions has increased sixfold over the last year, the anti-poverty organization Oxfam says.

In a report titled “The Hunger Virus Multiplies,” Oxfam said Thursday that the death toll from famine outpaces that of COVID-19, which kills about 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 President and Chief Executive 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,” Maxman said. “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.”

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Despite the pandemic, Oxfam said that global military spending increased by $51 billion since the global onset of COVID-19 — an amount that is at least six times greater than what the United Nations needs to stop hunger.

Dire U.N. warnings of a growing hunger crisis are becoming reality in multiple countries.

The report listed a number of countries as “the worst hunger hot spots,” including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, all of which are 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 can 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 more than a decade. This surge has contributed significantly to pushing tens of millions more people into hunger, the report said.


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