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Extreme hunger has more than doubled in the world’s worst climate hotspots, says Oxfam

Somalia is facing its worst drought on record, with one million people forced to flee their homes.
Somalia is facing its worst drought on record, with one million people forced to flee their homes.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh
By Angela Symons

Extreme hunger has more than doubled in the world’s worst climate hotspots.

Devastating floods and record-high heatwaves have been making headlines this summer, but some countries have been suffering for far longer - and are grappling with far worse than minor water shortages.

In a new report on the impact of climate on food supply, Oxfam found a 123 per cent rise in acute hunger in the 10 countries with the highest number of UN appeals driven by extreme weather events.

“Climate change is no longer a ticking bomb, it is exploding before our eyes,” says Gabriela Bucher, international executive director of Oxfam.

“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.”

Which countries are suffering extreme weather and hunger?

Oxfam found an extreme rise in hunger in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

These countries have repeatedly been battered by extreme weather over the last two decades.

Today, 48 million people across these countries suffer acute hunger - up from 21 million in 2016 - 18 million of whom are on the brink of starvation.

“For millions of people already pummelled down by ongoing conflict, widening inequalities, and economic crises, repeated climate shocks are becoming a backbreaker, says Bucher.

“The onslaught of climate disasters is now outpacing poor people’s ability to cope, pushing them deeper into severe hunger.”

How is extreme weather linked to hunger?

Climate shocks and severe drought are stifling production of staple foods in affected countries - many of which are ill prepared to deal with climate change.

In Kenya, the current drought has killed nearly 2.5 million livestock and left 2.4 million people hungry, including hundreds of thousands of children severely malnourished.

Burkina Faso has seen a staggering 1,350 per cent rise in hunger since 2016, with more than 3.4 million people in extreme hunger as of June 2022. Armed conflict and worsening desertification of crop and pastoral lands are behind this number.

In Guatemala, a severe drought has 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,” says Mariana López, a mother living in Naranjo in Guatemala's Dry Corridor. Persistent drought forced her to sell her land.

Countries least responsible for the climate crisis are suffering most

Climate-fuelled hunger is a stark demonstration of global inequality.

The 10 climate hotspots identified in Oxfam’s study are collectively responsible for just 0.13 per cent of global carbon emissions. They are also among the countries least ready for climate change.

In contrast, polluting industrialised nations such as those of the G20 - which control 80 per cent of the world’s economy - are together responsible for over three-quarters of the world’s carbon emissions.

Hunger will continue to spiral unless serious and immediate policy change is enacted, Oxfam warns.

“We cannot fix the climate crisis without fixing the systemic inequalities in our food and energy systems,” says Bucher.

“Ahead of UN General Assembly meetings this week, and COP27 in November, leaders, especially of rich polluting countries, must live up to their promises to cut emissions,” she urges.

One solution would be to increase taxation on polluting companies. According to Oxfam, just 1 per cent of fossil fuel companies’ average annual profit would generate $10 billion - enough to cover most of the shortfall in funding the UN humanitarian food security appeal.

Cancelling debt can 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,” says Bucher.