Two-week increase in wealth for food billionaires, enough to fully fund the response to the hunger crisis in East Africa


Food inflation in East African countries, where tens of millions are caught in an alarming hunger crisis, has risen sharply, reaching a staggering 44% in Ethiopia, or nearly five times the world average.

It is estimated that one person dies every 48 seconds in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia alone, where the worst drought in decades is exacerbated by war in Ukraine and pushing food prices to skyrocketing levels.

Against this backdrop, Food Billionaires have increased their collective wealth by $382 billion since 2020. Less than two weeks of their wealth gains would be more than enough to fund the entire $6.2 billion appeal. United Nations dollars for East Africa, which is currently funded at only 16 percent.

Hanna Saarinen, Oxfam’s Food Policy Officer, said: “A monstrous amount of wealth is being captured at the top of our global food supply chains, while rising food prices are contributing to a growing catastrophe that leaves millions of people unable to feed themselves and their families. families. World leaders are sleepwalking into a humanitarian disaster.

“We need to reinvent a new global food system to truly eradicate hunger; one that works for everyone. Governments can and should mobilize enough resources to prevent human suffering. A good option would be to tax the mega-rich who have seen their wealth soar to record levels over the past two years.

“This fundamentally flawed global food system – one that is exploitative, extractive, poorly regulated and largely in the hands of big corporate agribusiness – is becoming unsustainable for people and the planet and is pushing millions of people into East Africa and in the world to famine.”

People in East Africa spend up to 60% of their income on food, and the region is overly dependent on imported staple foods. For example, food and beverages make up 54% of the CPI in Ethiopia, compared to just 11.6% in the UK. While many people in wealthy countries grapple with rising consumer prices, their counterparts in East African countries face hunger and destitution.

  • In
    Somalia, maize prices were six times higher (78%) than world prices (12.9%) in May 2022 than they were 12 months earlier. In some areas, food basket minimum expenditures have jumped more than 160 percent from last year. The cost of a kilogram of sorghum – a staple food – was more than 240% higher than the five-year average.
  • In
    Ethiopia, food inflation has climbed 43.9% since last year. Grain prices rose 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 increased by 50% in just one month (between June and July 2022). Rising food and energy prices will increase poverty by 2.5%, pushing about 1.4 million Kenyans into extreme poverty.
  • In south sudan cereal prices in May tripled compared to the previous year, while the price of bread doubled from last year. The average grain price was 30 percent above the five-year average.

In Bundunbuto village, Puntland, Somalia, families’ purchasing power has halved compared to two months ago, which means that before, when they bought 25 kg of rice and sugar, they can only buy 13.5 kg per month.

In Somalia, where a “risk of famine” was recently declared, nearly half the population – more than seven million people – faces acute hunger, with 213,000 at risk of starvation.

Shamis Jama Elmi (38), a mother of eight, moved from Barate to Docoloha IDP camp in 2017 due to drought. The cash assistance of US$60 she receives each month from Oxfam only allows her to buy 12 kg of flour, rice and sugar to support her family for half a month. “We eat one meal a day and used to eat 3 times a day. We only eat rice with salt.

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

Even in advanced economies like the United States, the poorest 20% of the population are forced to spend four times more on food than the richest 20%.

“Our broken global food system and the inequalities that underpin it have sparked a war of attrition for millions of poor people who have lost their last purchasing power and can no longer afford to eat,” Saarinen said.

“To help these countries cope with rising food prices and the hunger crisis, rich countries must immediately cancel the debt of these countries – which has doubled in the last decade – in order to allow them to free up resources to meet soaring hunger and to import. necessary cereals. This money can and should be easily recouped by taxing the ultra-rich.

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

Notes to Editor

  • Food inflation over the past year in Ethiopia (44 percent), Somalia (15 percent) and Kenya (12 percent) exceeds the G7 average (10 percent) and the global average (9 percent).
  • One-year food inflation to May 2022 for Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia is from Trading Economics. The OECD G7 average (up to May 2022) and the ILO global average (latest available data is up to March 2022).
  • Data on the wealth of food and agriculture billionaires is taken from Oxfam’s Profiting from Pain report and covers the period from March 2020 to March 2022. A two-week increase in the wealth of food and agriculture billionaires food would correspond to 7.3 billion dollars.
  • In Kenya, the price of maize flour, the main staple, doubled in seven months (KES 108 in Nov. 2021 for a 2 kg packet; KES 210 in July 2022).
  • To date, only $980.9 million of the total United Nations appeal of $6.157 billion for Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan (HRP and FA) has been funded. That’s an 84% difference. Source: UN OCHA Appeals and Response Plans 2022 | Financial Tracking Service (unocha.org)
  • Cereal prices are from the FAO Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Tool for May 2021-May 2022; and FAO Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin No. 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 more than 1.3 million of the most vulnerable people.

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