Quarter of a billion people worldwide face extreme poverty – Oxfam


The charity group Oxfam on Tuesday warned that rising price of food caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and increased energy costs could push a quarter of a billion more people into extreme poverty.

Oxfam is now calling for urgent international action, including cancelling debt repayments for poorer countries in order to avert the impending disaster.

“Without immediate radical action, we could be witnessing the most profound collapse of humanity into extreme poverty and suffering in memory,” said Oxfam’s international executive director, Gabriela Bucher.

Oxfam’s briefing, released ahead of World Bank and IMF spring meetings next week, said indebted governments could be forced to cut public spending to meet the rising cost of importing fuel and food.

Oxfam said cancelling debt repayments for this year and next could free up US$30bn (£23bn) for dozens of the countries facing the biggest debts.

The World Bank had already estimated that 198 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty this year as a result of the pandemic. But Oxfam estimates that 65 million more people are at risk if the invasion of Ukraine and rising energy prices are taken into account. It also estimates that 28 million more people will be left undernourished as a result.

Oxfam called for more taxes on the wealthiest and also on companies that profit from crises such as the pandemic or the Ukraine war. It also called for the G20 to earmark US$100bn of an existing austerity fund for poor countries to draw on, and protect the poorest from inflation through subsidies and cutting taxes on goods and services.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization reported last week that the war in Ukraine had made food commodities more expensive than ever, costing more than a third in March than at the same time last year.

The Middle East and parts of Africa are expected to be particularly affected because of disrupted grain imports from the Black Sea region, which have compounded existing economic and climate crises.

Oxfam said rising costs could see food account for 40% of incomes in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bucher said lack of action from governments to tackle rising poverty was “inexcusable”.

She said: “We reject any notion that governments do not have the money or means to lift all people out of poverty and hunger, and ensure their health and welfare. We only see the absence of economic imagination and political will to actually do so.” (Source: The Guardian)