21.09.2022 |

Acute hunger is increasing in world’s climate hotspots, Oxfam

Global warming will decrease yields (Photo: CC0)

Ten of the world’s worst affected “climate hotspots” – those with the highest number of UN appeals driven by extreme weather events – are also plunging into deeper hunger. According to new research published by Oxfam International, acute hunger has more than doubled in those countries over the past six years. The development organisation says the correlation between weather-related crises and rising hunger in these countries, and others, is “stark and undeniable”. The brief “Hunger in a heating world”, published on September 16th, found that “the climate crisis is increasingly becoming a threat multiplier that conspires with other major drivers of hunger, such as conflict, economic shocks, displacement, poverty and widening inequalities”. Climate change is adding pressure on food production systems, undermining food security and increasing security risks. “Climate change is no longer a ticking bomb, it is exploding before our eyes,” warned Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director at Oxfam International. “It is making extreme weather such as droughts, cyclones, and floods – which have increased five-fold over the past 50 years – more frequent and more deadly.”

Oxfam looked at the top ten countries with the most recurring UN humanitarian appeals in response to major extreme weather events since 2000, where climate was classified as a “major contributor” to these appeals: Somalia, Haiti, Djibouti, Kenya, Niger, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, and Zimbabwe. For Somalia and Haiti, for example, Oxfam counted 16 and 12 UN appeals respectively in the last two decades. The calculations of those facing acute hunger and starvation are based on the “Global Report on Food Crises” (GRFC), a UN report published annually since 2016 by the Food Security Information Network. The GRFC uses the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) in which the scale of food insecurity is broken down into five phases (minimal, stressed, crisis, emergency and catastrophe/famine). Today, 47.5 million people across the ten countries examined suffer acute hunger (IPC phase 3+), up from 21.3 million in 2016. This is a rise of 123 percent. Nearly 18 million people in these 10 countries are currently on the brink of starvation (based on the total number of people at IPC 4 level of food insecurity and above in 2021). “For millions of people already pummelled down by ongoing conflict, widening inequalities and economic crises, repeated climate shocks are becoming a backbreaker. The onslaught of climate disasters is now outpacing poor people’s ability to cope, pushing them deeper into severe hunger,” warned Bucher.

Among the ten countries, Burkina Faso has seen the highest increase in hunger with a staggering 1350% rise since 2016. As of June 2022, more than 3.4 million people in this country were suffering from extreme hunger due to armed conflict and worsening desertification of crop and pastoral lands. In the agricultural year 2021/22, cereal production in Burkina Faso decreased by 10% compared to the previous year. Global warming above 2°C could potentially reduce yields of cereals like millet and sorghum in places like Burkina Faso and Niger by 15–25%. In Niger, 2.6 million people are facing acute hunger today (up 767% from 2016). Cereal production has crashed by nearly 40%, as frequent climatic shocks on top of ongoing conflict have made harvesting increasingly difficult. Latin America has also been witnessing rising hunger despite having a significant number of middle-income countries. Hunger in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua has increased almost fourfold over the past two years – from 2.2 million people in 2018 to close to 8 million people in 2021 – a result of years of extreme climate events on top of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. Guatemala is also in the top ten list with 6 UN appeals with weather extremes as a major factor. The country saw a 147% rise in acute hunger (IPC3+) between 2016 and 2021. A severe drought has recently contributed to the loss of close to 80 percent of the maize harvest and devastated coffee plantations. “We spent almost eight days with hardly any food,” Mariana López, a mother living in Naranjo in Guatemala’s Dry Corridor, is quoted by Oxfam. Persistent drought forced her to sell her land.

Climate-fuelled hunger is a stark demonstration of global inequality, explains Oxfam. Countries that are least responsible for the climate crisis are suffering most from its impact and are also the least resourced to cope with it. According to the brief, the sum of cumulative carbon emissions of the 10 climate hotspots for 2020 was 0.002 trillion tons of carbon – that is 0.13% of the world emissions. The carbon emissions of the G20 countries – which together hold over 80% of the world’s economy – are 650 times higher than the emissions of these ten. The charity denounces that leaders of these rich nations continue to support mega-rich polluting companies that are often big supporters of their political campaigns. “Fossil fuel companies’ daily profits have averaged $2.8 billion over the last 50 years. Less than 18 days of those profits would fund the entire UN humanitarian appeal for 2022 of $49 billion," says Oxfam. But the research revealed that despite their spiralling hunger levels, funding for the 10 worst climate hotspots in the world has been equally inadequate. Between 2000 and 2021, donors provided less than $20 billion of the $31.6 billion UN appeals linked to extreme weather in the 10 climate hotspots – that is a shortfall of nearly 40 percent.

At the UN General Assembly and ahead of COP27, Oxfam called on political leaders to take urgent action to provide lifesaving aid to address the immediate hunger crisis in these climate hotspots and to guarantee adequate climate and anticipatory financing to help impacted people adapt, prepare for and cope with the next disaster. “Leaders, especially of rich polluting countries, must live up to their promises to cut emissions. They must pay for adaptation measures and loss and damage in low-income countries, as well as immediately inject lifesaving funds to meet the UN appeal to respond to the most impacted countries,” said Bucher. Cancelling debt could also help governments free up resources to invest in climate mitigation: “Rich and most polluting nations have a moral responsibility to compensate low-income countries most impacted by the climate crisis. This is an ethical obligation, not charity,” said Bucher. The report also calls on governments to provide safe and legal avenues for people forced to move due to climate change: They need to be able to access safe countries for both short term climate disasters as well as long term climate shifts which make their places of origin unliveable. Another demand mentioned in the brief is the need to build fairer, more resilient, and more sustainable food systems: “Governments and the private sector must put fairer, gender just food systems at the heart of climate response, to help small-scale food producers recover, rebuild and respond to climate crises. This includes investing in sustainable agriculture that supports local food production and preserves the planet.” (ab)

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