On World Food Day, millions of people are still experiencing extreme hunger

In Yemen, Mona cannot afford food and water for her four young children. Her children no longer go to school and her baby suffers from malnutrition along with other illnesses. Photo: Sami M. Jassar/Oxfam

Today, 16 October, marks World Food Day, which is celebrated every year on 16 October to mark the founding of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). This World Food Day, and with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, the FAO is calling for global solidarity to help everyone – especially vulnerable communities – recover from the crisis, make food systems more climate resilient, provide decent livelihoods for farmers and food producers, and deliver sustainable, healthy diets for all.

However, the absence of global solidarity cannot be ignored in Oxfam’s latest report, Later Will Be Too Late, which examines how – despite repeated warnings – millions of people around the world are still experiencing extreme hunger.

Hunger was the defining humanitarian crisis of 2017, with northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen on the brink of famine. With 30 million people in dire need of food for survival, the international community responded – halting full famine in all four countries. But while disaster was averted, the $4.6 billion provided made up just 71 percent of the funding needed.

Three years on and the COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global crisis, with the virus contributing to even greater hunger. Worldwide, economies are collapsing and millions of people are struggling to put food on the table. More people are experiencing extreme hunger today than in 2017 – but this time, help does not appear to be coming.

On World Food Day 2020, the countries which were suffering in 2017 continue to experience hunger, but they have been joined by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Burkina Faso – all of which face serious food insecurity. In all, 55.5 million people are living through a hunger crisis or emergency, with localised famine conditions affecting 40,000 people in South Sudan and 11,300 people in Burkina Faso.

In July of this year, Oxfam’s report The Hunger Virus warned policymakers and the public that “between 6,000 and 12,000 people per day could die from hunger linked to the social and economic impacts of the pandemic before the end of the year”. But the response of the international community has been grossly inadequate.

By the end of September 2020, donors had provided just 28 percent ($2.85 billion) of the $10.19 billion asked for in the UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19. Just $254.4 million was provided out of $2.4 billion requested for food security and a paltry 3.2 percent of the funding asked for was made available for nutrition.

Even in the short term, periods of extreme hunger and famine can destroy a country, affecting its economic progress for generations. Chronic hunger and malnutrition lead to frequent illness, poor school performance, low productivity at work and lower earnings. These people are statistically more likely to experience a lifetime of poverty.

A severe drought in Somalia almost pushed the country into famine in 2017. Nimo lost most of her livestock and had to walk for miles to find water and food for her baby. Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam

What world leaders must do

  1. Provide adequate levels of funding for food assistance (in the form of cash or commodities as is most appropriate to the context) and life-saving support now, before more people face severe food insecurity or famine.
  2. Break the links between war and hunger and allow humanitarian agencies to reach vulnerable communities with aid, even in conflict situations.
  3. Invest in gender just, resilient food systems: Fairer, gender just, resilient and sustainable food systems must be at the heart of the post-pandemic recovery.
  4. Invest in small-scale and agro-ecological food production, ensure producers earn a living income by establishing minimum producer prices and other mechanisms, and ensure workers earn a living wage.
  5. Commit to respond earlier to warning signs of future crises before they escalate.
  6. Build people’s ability to cope better with future crises. Even without conflict, these countries will remain vulnerable to future food crises – including those from climate change – so investing in livelihoods recovery, resilience building, and disaster risk reduction activities is essential.
  7. Support robust and inclusive social protection systems as a key requirement to ensure food security.
  8. Address discrimination faced by women food producers on issues such as access to land, information, credit and technology.
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Lorraine Keane’s Fashion Relief with Oxfam is coming to the Frascati Centre, Blackrock

New pop-up shop packed with brand-new, pre-loved and designer bargains

  • Burberry, Diane von Furstenberg, Victoria Beckham and Irish designers Fee G, Deborah Veale and Louise Kennedy to feature  
  • Shop sustainably and help beat poverty 

Launching this Saturday, Lorraine Keane’s Fashion Relief with Oxfam is bringing a pop-up shop to the newly renovated Frascati Centre, Blackrock. The shop will boast rail after rail of brand-new and pre-loved donated clothes, shoes and accessories, offering a more sustainable way to shop, while also supporting Oxfam’s global work to beat poverty. 

Fashion Relief started in 2018 when broadcaster Lorraine Keane teamed up with Oxfam Ireland to organise a series of live Fashion Relief events. Since then, Fashion Relief has travelled nationwide to Dublin, Galway and Cork and raised almost €270,000 for Oxfam’s work with the poorest and most vulnerable. When COVID-19 resulted in the postponement of the 2020 events, Fashion Relief pivoted to an online shopping platform with the help of Irish tech firm Axonista – a partnership recognised at the recent US TV of Tomorrow Awards where Axonista took home the Corporate Leadership in the Coronavirus Era award for Fashion Relief TV.  

Taking all the best elements of the live shows and the shopping channel, the Frascati Fashion Relief Pop-up will be packed full of designer and boutique bargains.  

Lorraine Keane said: “We are thrilled the Frascati Centre has so generously offered to host our Fashion Relief Pop-up. We will have pieces from the fashion houses of Burberry, Diane von Furstenberg, Victoria Beckham alongside Irish designers Fee G, Deborah Veale and Louise Kennedy.  

“By bagging a bargain from the Fashion Relief Pop-up, you’ll be shopping more sustainably, helping to divert pre-loved and end-of-line clothes from landfill, and doing your bit for people and planet – including communities most at risk from the climate crisis.” 

Fashion Relief is part of Oxfam’s solution to ‘throwaway fashion’, encouraging people to donate pre-loved items and reduce the amount of clothes that end up in landfill as well as shopping second-hand to give pre-loved clothes a longer life. Fashion Relief also works with retailers, boutiques, wholesalers and Irish dress agencies, supporting them to donate their end of line or excess stock instead of sending it to landfill – a more sustainable solution for people and planet. 

Keane concluded: “As part of Fashion Relief, I’ve travelled to Ethiopia, Somaliland and more recently Bangladesh to see first-hand how the profits raised help some of the poorest and most at risk people through Oxfam’s work – people made even more vulnerable because of the deadly threat of COVID-19. When you shop with Fashion Relief, know that every purchase helps to transform lives and support those most in need.” 

Drop into the Frascati Centre from Saturday 17th October to browse an amazing range of fabulous fashion finds at discounted prices, bag yourself a unique bargain and feel good as you do good!    



Caroline Reid | | +353 (0) 87 912 3165 

Alice Dawson-Lyons | | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 

Notes to the editor 

  • Lorraine Keane is available for interview 
  • Fashion Relief is a fundraiser extraordinaire that offers people the unique opportunity to bag a bargain from the wardrobe of their style icon or beloved brand, boutique or designer. It started in May 2018 and has since rolled out annual events in Dublin, Cork and Galway, more recently pivoting to an online interactive shopping platform –   
  • All profits support Oxfam’s work in some of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive as well as saving lives when disaster strikes. Since its inception, Fashion Relief has raised nearly €270,000 for Oxfam’s work. 
  • Oxfam is a global movement of people who won’t live with the injustice of poverty. Together they save lives and rebuild communities when disaster strikes. They help people build better lives for themselves. They speak out on the big issues that keep people poor, like inequality and discrimination against women. And they won’t stop until every person on the planet can live without poverty. Oxfam Ireland is one of 20 Oxfams working in over 90 countries worldwide. 
  • Development at the new Frascati Centre in Blackrock is finished, creating a new shopping and dining experience for everyone. The newly introduced one stop shop for Health, Beauty and Body has opened on the spacious first floor and includes a stylish re-fitted Peter Mark along with new stores Sugar Daddy, Sugar Coated, Sisu, The Blackrock Medical centre and Pure Pharmacy. F45 Gym and The Yoga studio are due to open soon. Downstairs on the bright and airy mall, you’ll find all of the other much loved Frascati brands including M&S, Aldi, Vodafone, Bannon Jewellers, Murray Mobile and Boots. Frascati’s top fashion boutiques and shoe stores have all been upgraded.  
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No country should be forced to choose between paying back debts or providing healthcare

Many countries are burdened with massive debt owed to richer countries, private banks & multilateral institutions, constraining their governments from being able to free up resources to spend on public health. Photo: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville/Oxfam

Over the past months, we've seen some of the richest countries in the world struggle with the effects of Covid-19 and the health and economic emergency it has brought in its wake. But they have the resources to cushion the blows, while poor countries face these huge threats with few resources.

The pandemic has overwhelmed some of the best healthcare systems in the world. However, the crisis could get much worse as the virus takes hold in countries where people are already suffering from a lack of adequate or affordable healthcare. For instance:

  • The Central African Republic has only three ventilators for the entire country.
  • Tanzania has one doctor for every 71,000 people.
  • Kenya has only 130 beds in intensive care units for a population of nearly 50 million people.

We know it is the countries with universal and publicly provided healthcare that will be best placed to get through this crisis. Yet, in most countries, health services are desperately weak and deeply unequal – you only get treatment if you have money.

Which brings us to debt.

Faced with an impossible choice – pay back debts or invest in health care

Many countries are burdened with massive amounts of debt owed to richer countries, private banks and multilateral institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.

The level of public external debt accumulated by developing countries is staggering. In 2018, it had reached €389 billion for 73 countries. If we look at 2020 alone, the 76 poorest countries are due to pay €34.6 billion. This has constrained their governments from being able to free up resources to spend on public prevention and response.

The DRC has less than half the number of nurses it needs. In just four months the country spends as much on debt as it would cost to pay the annual salary for 141,000 extra nurses needed to provide health care for all. Photo: Scherazade Bouabid/Oxfam

Every euro of debt repayment is a euro that can't be used to protect people from disease, hunger and destitution. Last year 64 of the world's poorest countries spent more on paying back debts to rich countries and financial institutions than on healthcare.

Rich countries must #CancelTheDebt to save lives

Healthcare systems in some of the world's poorest countries need an urgent cash injection to tackle this crisis. Debt relief is the fastest way of getting money to where it's needed most. It could free up €34 billion this year alone, to help these countries fight the virus and its brutal economic impacts.

In April 2020, the G20 agreed a temporary suspension of debt payments for 73 countries. This was a welcome first step, but it is nowhere near enough.

The agreement failed to address the massive debts to private creditors like banks and hedge funds, or some of the biggest multilateral lenders like the World Bank – to which many developing countries owe huge sums.

Together we can protect each other and create a fair future for us all

This is a global public health emergency bigger than anything humanity has ever seen. If left unchecked, Covid-19 could cause up to 40 million deaths around the world and push half a billion more people into poverty. The speed at which the pandemic has spread around the world shows that countries cannot defeat the virus on their own – more than ever we need a global response.

The demands for debt cancellation have continued to build over the last few months – from leaders in the African Union, to over 800,000 people who have signed petitions calling for urgent debt relief, including in support of Oxfam’s letter from health workers around the world.

Join us, and thousands of other campaigners around the world in calling for G20 leaders to #CancelThe Debt and help fight Covid-19 in the world's poorest countries.

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Oxfam Ireland Media Reactive: Budget 2021

Responding to the announcement of Budget 2021, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland Jim Clarken said:

“We welcome the increase of €30 million in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in Budget 2021. It is very positive, that even in these most challenging of times, Ireland has chosen to demonstrate international solidarity with the most vulnerable communities around the globe. The world's poorest people are being hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis as its economic fallout threatens to push half a billion more people into poverty. It has never been more important to continue to champion ODA.

“As indicated by Minister McGrath in his speech today, this commitment to overseas aid together with our seat on the UN Security Council will enhance and strengthen Ireland’s presence internationally.

"While we welcome Ireland's commitments globally, we also welcome the commitment at a national level regarding funding for Tusla in support of children and young people seeking international protection. We would urge the Government to use this funding to ensure the urgent relocation of the remaining 26 unaccompanied minors stranded on the Greek islands to Ireland as commited to in March.

"With the onset of COVID-19 undermining the global fight against poverty, inequality and the climate crisis, global support and solidarity has become more important than ever. In the COVID-19 response, we cannot say we are safe, until we’re all safe and we welcome the announcements within Budget 2021 today which spoke to this."



Caroline Reid | | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to the Editor:

Oxfam Ireland spokespeople will be available for interviews, analysis and comment on a number of issues included in our Pre-Budget Submission.

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The need for a debt moratorium in the time of coronavirus

Debt Moratorium - our Pre-budget Submission recommendations

Developing countries are being hardest hit by the COVID crisis – unfortunately, they lack the financing mechanisms widely used across the EU to mitigate the worst impacts of the pandemic. A fall in exports and commodity prices has wiped out anticipated revenue, and with the expectation of recovery being pushed out to 2022 and beyond, hunger and poverty are skyrocketing. The sense of urgency will only grow. However, European institutions and Member States like Ireland could reduce the burden on developing nations by facilitating and supporting debt relief for the world’s poorest countries.

The World Bank and the IMF have already called for an unconditional moratorium on debt interest payments for poor countries. This move – if supported – would free up an estimated $44 billion in Africa alone, which could then be allocated to public health services. Cancelling the debt is the easiest way to keep money in country and free up resources to tackle the urgent health, social and economic crises resulting from the pandemic.

Shockingly, in 2018, the total debts of developing countries were 191 percent of their combined GDP. They were due to pay approximately $400 billion of debt repayments this year. In light of the coronavirus crisis, in particular, it makes no sense for poorer countries to transfer vital resources to rich nations. Before the pandemic, 46 countries were spending on average four times more on repaying debt than on their public health services. As the virus took hold, the costs of the debt burden continued to be paid through cuts to the state services of the world’s poorest people, with women being the hardest hit.

The United Nations has called for $2.5 trillion to rescue the economies of developing countries in the time of coronavirus. This funding would include debt release, aid for health systems, as well as creating additional finance flows, including the issuing of Special Drawing Rights. Experts have encouraged G20 leaders to lead this call for funding as they warn of “unimaginable health and social impacts”.

Debt relief is a must – not an option – and is vital to provide fiscal space to invest in health and economic recovery.

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