UNITED NATIONS, May 13 (IPS) – The Russian invasion of Ukraine last February has triggered multiple crises on several fronts: the death of thousands of civilians, the destruction of densely populated cities, the increase in military spending in Europe, the projected fall development assistance to the world’s poorest nations; the demolition of schools and health centers — and now the threat of hunger and starvation throughout the world.
David Beasley, executive director of the Rome-based World Food Program (WFP), said last week: “Right now Ukraine’s grain silos are full,” while “44 million people around the world They are headed for starvation.”
In terms of population, that is equivalent to the whole of Argentina.
“Bullets and bombs in Ukraine could push the global hunger crisis to levels beyond what we have seen before,” Beasley warned during a visit to the Polish-Ukrainian border.
“The world demands it because hundreds of millions of people around the world depend on these supplies. We are running out of time and the cost of inaction will be higher than anyone can imagine. I urge all parties involved to allow this food to leave Ukraine where it is desperately needed so that we can avert the imminent threat of famine.”
Beasley warned that unless the ports are reopened, Ukrainian farmers will have nowhere to store the next harvest in July/August. The result will be mountains of grain going to waste as the WFP and the world struggle to cope with an already catastrophic global hunger crisis.
A leading grain producer, Ukraine had about 14 million tons in storage and available for export. But Russia’s blockade of Black Sea ports has crippled shipments. More grain is stranded on ships that cannot move due to the conflict.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters on May 3 that the US chaired a Security Council meeting last March that focused on the link between armed conflict and food security.
“Once again, we will highlight conflict as a driver of food insecurity.”
The United States, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, has scheduled an open debate on May 19 to examine “the nexus between conflict and food security.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to chair the meeting in person.
Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, told IPS that Russia’s war against Ukraine and its war crimes will have consequences that last for decades. Staple crop yields had already declined in many parts of the world due to the impacts of the climate crisis and other conflicts.
“War will only exacerbate the many crises the world is facing now: the biodiversity loss crisis, the health crisis, and the climate crisis.”
“And because Ukraine and Russia provided so much food, cooking oil, and fertilizer, to other parts of the world, including the Global South, there will be a massive hunger crisis,” he warned.
There is a possibility that the war will hasten the transition to more regenerative local and regional food systems that were needed before the war. But in the meantime, there will be much suffering. Governments, NGOs, businesses and other stakeholders will need to take action now to prevent a food crisis, Nierenberg said.
At a press conference in Vienna on May 11, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “I have been in intensive contact with the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Turkey and several other key countries, to try to seriously address the food problems. security”.
“But once again, I don’t intend to go public with any of the initiatives that I’m having until they work out, because if this becomes something to discuss, globally, I’m sure we won’t be able to achieve anything.” he said.
WFP analysis found that 276 million people worldwide were already facing acute hunger as of early 2022. That number is expected to rise by 44 million people if the conflict in Ukraine continues, with the steepest increases in sub-Saharan Africa. .
Daniel Bradlow, Professor of International Development Law and African Economic Relations at the Center for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, told IPS that the war in Ukraine will have a devastating impact on Africa because many African countries import food and fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine.
Therefore, the war will lead to rising food and fertilizer prices, as well as food and fertilizer shortages. The impact of the war will be added to extreme weather events (droughts, floods) in various parts of the continent which will also have an adverse impact on food prices and supplies.
“Thus … the number of hungry people across the continent is likely to increase, which will have a tragic impact on the development and well-being of children.”
The only silver lining in this dire situation is that it could lead people across the continent to increase their reliance on more indigenous crops like cassava, he said.
Hanna Saarinen, Oxfam’s food, agriculture and land policy adviser, told IPS that world hunger is skyrocketing because of the war in Ukraine, which has pushed up food prices.
“This is catastrophic for people living in countries highly dependent on wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine. Countries like Yemen and Syria in the Middle East and Somalia and South Sudan in Africa where we are seeing people pushed over the brink of starvation,” she said.
The reason is a global food system that is broken, incapable of withstanding crises and based on inequality. Many poorer countries are unable, and too often are unable, to produce enough food to feed their people. They must depend on food imports. This dependency is dangerous, he added. “Countries must refrain from applying food export bans. They just do more damage. Countries must ensure that food can move quickly from one country to another.” “We need a food system that works for everyone. One that can cope with shocks like rapid food inflation and is based on local small-scale family farming,” he stated.
Report of the UN Office of IPS
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