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The hunger crisis linked to coronavirus can kill more people than the disease itself, Oxfam warns

An estimated 12,000 people a day may die from hunger linked to Covid-19 by the end of the year, Oxfam said. By comparison, data from Johns Hopkins University show that the deadliest day of the pandemic so far was April 17, when 8,890 deaths were recorded.

“The pandemic is the last straw for millions of people already struggling with the effects of conflict, climate change, inequality and a broken food system that has impoverished millions of food producers and workers,” said Oxfam’s interim director Chema Vera in a release.

Among the issues that have left many unable to put food on the table are lost income caused by unemployment or a decline in payment payments, the lack of social support for those working in the informal economy and disruptions in the supply chain and barriers faced by producers.

Contributions to the crisis are also travel restrictions related to lockdowns, which affect not only workers and farmers, but also the delivery of humanitarian aid.

These new challenges add to long-standing issues that aggravate global hunger, including war, climate change and rising inequality.

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In its information meeting, Oxfam announces food and beverage industry titans such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, General Mills among others.

“At the same time, they continue to make a profit at the top: eight of the largest food and beverage companies have paid out over $ 1

8 billion to shareholders since January, even as the pandemic has spread worldwide – ten times more than the UN says it needs to stop people getting hungry, “the release reads.

Covid-19 exacerbates food shortages

According to Oxfam, the coronavirus pandemic “has added fuel to the fire from an already growing hunger crisis.”

The World Food Program cited by Oxfam estimates that in 2019, 821 million people were food insecure and 149 million of them were affected by “hunger for the crisis or worse.” Current forecasts say that the number of people experiencing hunger at crisis level could reach 270 million by 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, an increase of over 80% over the previous year.

Oxfam’s orientation shows 10 extreme hunger pangs around the world where the pandemic is exacerbating already critical situations. They are: Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, West African Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Haiti.

But the negative effects of the food safety pandemic are also felt in middle-income countries such as Brazil, India and South Africa, where “people who were just about tipped over the edge of the pandemic”, according to Oxfam.

Brazil and India are now dealing with the second largest and third largest coronavirus outbreaks in the world, which are only dwarfed by the United States. Cases in Brazil have exceeded 1.7 million and India has over 767,000. The US broke the threshold for 3 million cases on Wednesday.

Food insecurity in the United States and the pandemic

Hunger is rising globally and the United States is no exception.

Over the past week, 1.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits, and according to Feeding America, another 17 million people in the United States could be unsure of food by 2020 as a result of the pandemic. That would give the total number of Americans struggling to put food on the table to about 54 million people, or one in six, the organization estimates.
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“This is a 46% increase over the 37 million people who were unsure of food before the COVID-19 crisis,” based on data from 2018, said Emily Engelhard, CEO of Feeding America.

Many more Americans are using food banks across the country to get by, the organization says.

Based on preliminary data from Feeding America’s latest Food Bank survey, 83% of the organization’s food banks reported an increase in the number of people served compared to this time last year, with an average increase of 50%, Engelhard explained.

The pandemic also exposed vulnerabilities in the US food chains. For example, Covid-19 severely affected outbreaks of meat processing plants around the country, causing a shortage.

“We need a more diversified supply chain system where you have many more players” to avoid these types of issues, Miguel Gómez, associate professor at Cornell’s School of Applied Economics, told CNN.

“There has to be a balance between having regional players and more global players. You don’t want to depend on just one supply chain to feed a population, because it’s risky,” explained Gómez, an expert on supply chain sustainability.

Avoid the worst case scenario

Gómez said he was not surprised by Oxfam’s gloomy predictions, although he is optimistic that the worst case scenario they expect can be avoided.

“Obviously, our food distribution system has huge inequalities,” Gómez said. “A long-term concern is how can we shift emphasis from just focusing on efficiency and maximizing profits to a more resilient, fair food production and distribution system,” he added.

Gómez believes that the solutions lie in global policy measures, such as investing in food assistance programs, building or strengthening food safety networks, and supporting farmers as they see their income decline.

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More powerful government intervention to buy and redistribute food and measures to prevent retail prices for basic needs from rising “at least in the short term” would also be affecting, Gómez argued.

“We should not forget about the importance of public policy or government in ensuring the availability of products at reasonable prices,” Gómez said.

Oxfam’s recommendations on how to resolve the crisis also point to the importance of governance and leadership at the global level.

“Governments can save lives now by fully funding the UN’s COVID-19 appeal, ensuring support gets to those most in need, and cutting off debts in developing countries to free funding for social protection and health care,” Oxfam’s interim director Chema Vera is quoted as saying like saying.

“To end this hunger crisis, the authorities also need to build fairer, more robust and more sustainable food systems that put food producers ‘and workers’ interests ahead of the gains of big food and farms,” ​​added Vera.

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