Economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic is driving up hunger in fragile countries and threatening famine, Britain's leading aid charities have warned. Thousands are likely to die this year as the knock-on effects of the world's 15-month-long struggle against Covid-19 have left people unable to afford food. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) coalition of UK aid agencies warns that parts of South Sudan and Yemen are now on the brink of famine, while Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of the Congo are at risk. Lockdowns have devastated livelihoods and cut the lifeline of foreign remittances, while travel restrictions have upended supply chains. In countries like Afghanistan, large numbers have been pitched into poverty just as food prices have soared. Many of the countries were already in dire humanitarian need before the pandemic, with years of war having crippled economies and health systems. The pandemic has made the situation worse. Yet humanitarian funding has dropped during the year as donor countries deal with their own outbreaks. Saleh Saeed, the DEC chief executive, 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. “Without continued support, many lives will be lost – not just from Covid-19 itself, but from the economic impact of the virus.” The coalition, which includes charities such as Save the Children, British Red Cross, Oxfam, Christian Aid and 10 others, said senior staff in the field were increasingly alarmed by the fallout. A survey found almost all (98 per cent) said the pandemic had worsened the humanitarian crisis in their respective countries and three quarters said the situation was the worst they had seen it in the past decade. More than four-out-of-five said that, without increased funding, thousands are likely to die from hunger in 2021. The DEC also predicted that any vaccine roll outs in these countries will be slow and difficult “and will not be a panacea for all the effects of the pandemic on the world’s most vulnerable communities”. Since its launch in July, the DEC Coronavirus Appeal has raised £36 million, including £10 million in matched contributions from the UK Government.