Global food system is pushing millions worldwide into starvation

Global food system is pushing millions worldwide into starvation

Food inflation in Ethiopia reaches 44%, almost five times the global average

Food inflation in East African countries has increased dramatically, reaching a staggering 44% in Ethiopia – nearly five times the global average.

This comes alongside a catastrophic hunger crisis due to the worst drought in decades, only exacerbated by the global food crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine.

It is estimated that one person is likely dying every 48 seconds in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. In Somalia, where a “risk of famine” was recently declared, nearly half the population – over seven million people – face acute hunger. 

Against this backdrop, food billionaires have increased their collective wealth by $382bn since 2020. Less than two weeks’ worth of their wealth gains would be more than enough to fund the entirety of the US$6.2 billion UN appeal for East Africa, which is currently woefully funded at a mere 16 percent.

Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “A huge amount of wealth is being captured at the top of our global food supply chains, meanwhile, decades of progress on ending extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive.

“This fundamentally broken global food system – one that is exploitative, extractive, poorly regulated and largely in the hands of big agribusinesses – is becoming unsustainable for people and the planet and is pushing millions in East Africa and worldwide to starvation.

“We need to reimagine a new global food system to really end hunger; one that works for everyone. Governments can and must mobilise enough resources to prevent human suffering.”

People in East Africa spend as much as 60 per cent of their income on food, and the region over-relies on imported staple food. For example, food and beverages account for 54 percent of Consumer Price Index (CPI) in Ethiopia, compared to just 11 percent in Ireland. While many people in affluent countries are struggling with the increased consumer prices, their counterparts in East African countries are facing hunger and destitution.

  • In Somalia, maize prices were six times higher (78%) than global prices (12.9%) in May 2022 than they were 12 months before. In some regions, the minimum food basket expenditure has soared to over 160% compared to last year. The cost of one kilo of sorghum – a staple food – was more than 240% higher than the five-year average.  
  • In Ethiopia, food inflation soared by 43.9% since last year. Cereals prices increased by 70% in the year to May, more than double the global increase 
  • In Kenya, the price of maize flour, the main staple, has doubled in seven months and rose by 50% in just a month (between June and July 2022). Rising food and energy prices will increase poverty by 2.5 percent, pushing about 1.4 million Kenyans into extreme poverty.
  • In South Sudan cereals prices in May were triple their levels a year earlier, while the price of bread has doubled since last year. The average price of cereals has been higher than 30% of the five-year average.

Global food prices have hit a 50-year high and worldwide there are now 828 million people going hungry – 150 million more than at the start of the COVID pandemic. The Ukraine conflict has caused a huge spike in grain and energy prices but these have only worsened what was already an inflationary trend. This means, even when food is available, millions cannot afford to buy it.

Clarken continued: “To help countries enduring the hunger crisis cope with rising food prices, rich nations must immediately cancel debt for those countries – which has doubled over the last decade – in order to enable them to free resources to deal with the skyrocketing prices and to import needed grains.

“To end the root causes of hunger, world leaders must better regulate food markets and ensure more flexible international trade rules in favor of the world’s most vulnerable consumers, workers and farmers. Governments and donors should support small-scale farmers who in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa provide more than 70% of the food supply.”

ENDS

CONTACT: Alice Dawson Lyons | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org

 Notes to the Editor 

  • Food inflation over the last year in Ethiopia (44%,) Somalia (15%), and Kenya (12%) is exceeding the G7 (10%) and global average (9%). 
  • One year food inflation up until May 2022 for Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia was sourced from Trading Economics. The G7 average from the OECD (up to May 2022) and the global average from the ILO (the latest data available is up to March 2022).  
  • Data on food and agriculture billionaire wealth was drawn from Oxfam’s Profiting from Pain report and is for the period of March 2020 to March 2022. Two-weeks increase in food billionaires' wealth would correspond to $7.3 billion.
  • In Kenya, the price of maize flour, the main staple, doubled in seven months (KES 108 in Nov 2021 for 2kg packet; KES 210 in July 2022).  
  • As of 12 July 22, only $982 million of the total $6.2 billion UN appeal for Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan (both HRP and FA) has been funded. This is a gap of 84%. Source: UN OCHA Appeals and response plans 2022 | Financial Tracking Service (unocha.org).
  • Grain prices are from FAO’s Food Price Monitoring and Analysis tool for May 2021-May 2022; and FAO’s Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin #5, 15 June 2022
  • Oxfam, together with partners is supporting the most vulnerable people in East Africa with lifesaving food, cash assistance and water and sanitation services. It aims to reach over 1.3 million of the most vulnerable people. 
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