Hunger in a heating world Oxfam report on climate vulnerability hotspots

By Tobias Schmitz

7 Oct 2022 by The Water Diplomat

In a briefing released on the 16th of September, OXFAM published the results of a study of recent changes in food security in ten of the world’s regions most vulnerable to climate change. The study analysed changes in the number of people experiencing hunger as a result of weather extremes between 2016 and 2021. It found that acute hunger had more than doubled in those countries from 21 million to 48 million people, of which 18 million people are currently on the brink of starvation. The countries included in the study are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Somalia and Zimbabwe. The authors recognise that hunger is a multidimensional problem, in which conflict, economic disruptions and the Covid-19 pandemic are key drivers.   Nevertheless, the study selected countries for which the United Nations had issued emergency appeals due to extreme weather conditions to draw conclusions on correlations between extreme weather and hunger.  Climate change is causing more frequent and intense droughts, floods, heatwaves and other extreme weather events, which in turn are undermining food security. According to Oxfam, climate change undermined food security through four key drivers: firstly, by placing stress on agricultural production, reducing yields and productivity. Secondly, climate change reduces accessibility of food through increased prices, forced migration, and reduced resilience to shocks. Thirdly, climate change may reduce the quality of food consumed, affecting nutrition. Lastly, climate change increases the instability of food supply, interrupting continuity of supply. Taken together, on the basis of the existing trends OXFAM indicated that based on these factors the number of people affected by weather related disasters may be expected to increase by 40% from 400 a year in 2015 to 560 in 2030. The methodology of the OXFAM study relied on the frequency of UN appeals related to weather extremes to identify the top ten most vulnerable countries. Although this indicator is a somewhat indirect measurement of actual food insecurity, it was cross referenced with many key publications such as the Global Reports on Food Crises .