Russia-Ukraine conflict: UN warns of a global hunger meltdown

    AgricultureHungerRussia-Ukraine conflict: UN warns of a global hunger meltdown
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    Russia-Ukraine conflict: UN warns of a global hunger meltdown

    United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has warned of an impending global food crisis due to the war between Russia and Ukraine. He said that the resulting meltdown of the global economy is provoking a hunger crisis that is hitting the poorest hardest.

    Besides the hour-to-hour devastation inside Ukraine, the UN chief said the war was reaching far beyond its borders, with a Sword of Damocles now hanging over the global economy – “especially the developing world”.

    Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world’s wheat, he added, noting that Ukraine alone provides more than half of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) wheat supply.

    For months now, developing countries have been struggling to recover from the pandemic – with record inflation, rising interest rates and looming debt burdens, while their ability to respond has been “erased by exponential increases in the cost of financing.

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    “Their breadbasket is being bombed”, Secretary-General Guterres said.

    “Food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing.  Supply chains are being disrupted.  And the costs and delays of transportation of imported goods – when available – are at record levels.

    “All of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe.”

    ‘Hurricane of hunger’

    António Guterres said 45 African and least developed countries import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia, with 18 of those, import at least 50 percent.

    “We must do everything possible to avert a hurricane of hunger and a meltdown of the global food system. In addition, we are seeing clear evidence of this war draining resources and attention from other trouble-spots in desperate need.

    “In a word, developing countries are getting pummelled. They face a cascade of crises – beyond the Ukraine war, we cannot forget COVID and the impacts of climate change – in particular, drought.”

    WFP had already warned that 2022 would be a year of catastrophic hunger, with 44 million people in 38 countries teetering on the edge of famine.

    With Ukrainian ports closed and Russian grain deals on pause because of sanctions, 13.5 million tons of wheat and 16 million tons of maize are currently frozen in Russia and Ukraine, WFP has said. The wheat imports, on which millions of people are heavily dependent is hitting the world’s poorest the most, particularly in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Syria.

    Diplomatic path

    “It is time to stop the horror unleashed on the people of Ukraine and get on the path of diplomacy and peace”, he said, noting that he had been in close contact with countries including China, France, Germany, India, Israel and Turkey – on mediation efforts to end Russia’s invasion.

    “The appeals for peace must be heard. This tragedy must stop. It is never too late for diplomacy and dialogue. We need an immediate cessation of hostilities and serious negotiations based on the principles of the UN Charter and international law.”

    We need peace now, he added. “Peace for the people of Ukraine. Peace for our world.”


    Image: WFP

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