Extreme hunger has more than doubled in 10 of the world’s worst climate hotspots

Withered maize crop. Senegal will receive at least $22 million drought insurance compensation from continental firm, the African Risk Capacity Insurance Company. PHOTO | FILE/EAST AFRICAN

Ten of the world’s worst climate hotspots, those with the highest number of UN appeals driven by extreme weather events have suffered a 123 percent rise in acute hunger over just the past six years, according to an Oxfam International report published Thursday.

Somalia is going through a two-year historic dry spell, the likes of which have not been seen in more than 40 years. /CFP

“Climate change is no longer a ticking bomb, it is exploding before our eyes. 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,” Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam International Executive Director said.

The report listed 10 climate hotspots including Somalia, Haiti, Djibouti, Kenya, Niger, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Madagascar, Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe which have repeatedly been battered by extreme weather over the last two decades. Around 48 million people across those countries suffer acute hunger up from 21 million in 2016, and
18 million people of them are on the brink of starvation.

“For millions of people already pummeled 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,” said Bucher.

Somalia for instance is facing its worst drought on record, and famine is expected to unfold in two of its districts: Baidoa and Burhakaba. One million people have been forced to flee
their homes due to the drought. The country ranks 172nd out of 182 countries in terms
of its readiness to cope with climate change.

In neighboring 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. In West Africa, Niger has seen nearly 2.6 million people now facing acute hunger today (up 767 percent from2016). Cereal production has crashed by nearly 40 percent, as frequent climatic shocks on top of ongoing conflict have made harvesting increasingly difficult. Production of staple foods such as millet and sorghum could plummet even further by 25 percent if global warming surpasses 2°C.

Still in the West African region, Burkina Faso has seen a staggering 1350 percent rise in hunger since 2016, with more than 3.4 million people in extreme hunger as of June 2022 due to armed conflict and worsening desertification of crop and pastoral lands. Global warming above 2°C would likely decrease cereal yields like millet and sorghum by 15–25 percent.

Oxfam International submits that vital policy changes are equally needed to address the double crisis of climate and hunger.

“We cannot fix the climate crisis without fixing the systemic inequalities in our food and
energy systems. Increasing taxation on super polluters could easily cover the cost. Just 1 percent of the fossil fuel companies’ average annual profit would generate 10 billion U.S. dollars enough to cover most of the shortfall in funding the UN humanitarian food security appeal,” Bucher added.

Canceling 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,” said
Bucher.