Fragile states facing catastrophe and looming famine amid Covid pandemic, DEC warns

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Ray

The coronavirus pandemic is pushing already fragile countries "into catastrophe" with "looming famine" in several countries and thousands more expected to die of hunger in 2021.

In an alarming report which covers six of the most deprived countries, the Disasters and Emergency Committee (DEC) warns that hunger levels are rising dramatically.

The coalition of major UK aid agencies reports a humanitarian "breaking point" in countries with high levels of conflict, where refugees face shortages of food, medicine and shelter.

The report included Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen.

The DEC is also undertaking a review of the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The stark new evidence reveals that the economic impact of the virus has left people unable to afford food and essentials.

It also found:

  • Covid-19 cases and deaths have been underreported because of a lack of testing

  • Afghanistan carried out 400 tests a day for a population of 40 million

  • Already struggling health services and hospitals have been overwhelmed causing delays in vaccinations.

Furthermore, the evidence shows that aid money is running out, and agencies are having to cut life-saving help.

DEC Chief Executive Saleh Saeed said: “People living in places made perilous by conflict, violence and climate disasters are coping with the coronavirus pandemic as best they can, but the odds are stacked against them.

"The knock-on effects of the pandemic have crippled economies, making the world’s poorest people even poorer."

Mr Saeed adds that the charity risks having to choose which of the most vulnerable should get aid relief because of a lack of funds.

He said: "Without continued support, many lives will be lost – not just from Covid-19 itself, but from the economic impact of the virus.”    

Of all of the aid agencies surveyed:

  • 98% agreed that the pandemic agreed that the pandemic had worsened the humanitarian crisis

  • Nearly three-quarters - 73% - said it's the worst it has been for a decade.

  • 83% warned that without extra funding, thousands are likely to die from hunger in 2021.

The charities are calling for more cash to provide food and stave off famine, deliveries of water and sanitation services to help prevent and treat coronavirus where delays block vaccine deliveries.They say more money is also needed to fund training and for PPE for frontline aid and health workers.

Cousins collect water at a refugee camp in Aden, Yemen. Credit: DEC

Faith leaders and other community leaders will also have a pivotal role in sharing and reinforcing public health messages as well as busting myths about the virus.

The warnings coincide with comments from the Former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell who has disclosed British government aid to Yemen could be halved.

Mr Mitchell predicts the cut could mean that four million Yemenis, mainly children, could starve.

He added that Britain is "complicit" in the what's happening in the country which has been torn apart by civil conflict for six years.

A Saudi Arabia led coalition has launched military attacks on the country over the course of the war. Britain sells arms to Saudi Arabia and Amnesty International has alleged that some have been used in bombing campaigns.

Mr Mitchell suggests that it would show a "bad example" should the aid budget be cut at all, let alone by half and other nations should "step up" too.