The UN has warned of impending world famine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could soon trigger a global food crisis that could last for years, the UN has warned.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war has exacerbated food insecurity in poorer countries due to rising prices. If Ukraine’s exports are not restored, some countries could face long-term famine, he added.

The conflict has cut off supplies from Ukraine’s ports, which once exported huge quantities of oil, as well as cereals such as corn and wheat. This has reduced global supply and raised the price of alternatives. World food prices are almost 30% higher than at the same time last year, according to the UN.

At a UN ministerial meeting on the food crisis deepened by the war in Ukraine, he said “there is a long way to go” to overcome the crisis and called on the goodwill of all countries to achieve a “package agreement “on the matter

Speaking in New York on Wednesday, Guterres said the conflict, combined with the effects of climate change and the pandemic, “threatens to push tens of millions of people into food insecurity, followed by malnutrition and hunger”.

“There is enough food in our world now if we work together. But if we don’t solve this problem today, we will face the specter of global food shortages in the coming months,” Guterres added.

He warned that the only effective solution to the crisis is to restore food production and exports to Ukraine, as well as to resume fertilizer exports from Russia and Belarus.

At the meeting, German Foreign Minister Analena Burbock accused Russia of blocking grain exports from Ukraine and using it as a weapon in the war.

“Russia is waging this war with another terrible and powerful weapon – famine and deprivation. By blocking Ukrainian ports, destroying silos, roads, and railways, Russia has started a grain war, causing a global food crisis,” Baerbock said, adding that “millions are already threatened by famine, especially in the Middle East and Africa “, due to the effects of climate change, the covid pandemic and armed conflict in their regions.

According to the German government, the Russian army has blocked the export of 20 million tons of grain, mainly to countries in North Africa and Asia. Most of the grain is located in the port of Odesa.

The United States has announced another quarter of a billion dollars in emergency food aid worldwide. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Congress would soon have to approve $ 5.5 billion in humanitarian aid to address the world’s food security problem.

Leaders of international organizations: Ensuring the world’s food security

Leaders of the World Bank Group (WBG), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) today called for urgent action to ensure food security.

World Bank Group President David Malpas, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, SPP Executive Director David Beasley, and WTO Director-General Ngozi Okondjo Iveala made the following joint statement ahead of the spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group. next week:

“The world is shaken by worsening crises. The effects of the war in Ukraine are compounded by the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change and growing instability and conflict are causing permanent damage to people around the world. food and supply shortages are increasing pressure on households around the world and pushing millions into poverty. The threat is greatest to the poorest countries with a high share of imported food consumption, but vulnerability is growing rapidly in middle-income countries. most of the world’s poor.

In its estimates, the World Bank warns that with every one percentage point increase in food prices, 10 million people in the world fall into extreme poverty. “Rising food prices are exacerbated by a drastic increase in the price of natural gas, which is a key component of nitrogen fertilizers.

The sharp rise in fertilizer prices, together with a significant reduction in world supplies, has important implications for food production in most countries, including major producers and exporters who rely heavily on fertilizer imports. Rising food prices and supply disruptions can fuel social tensions in many affected countries, especially those that are already fragile or affected by conflict.

We call on the international community to urgently support vulnerable countries through coordinated action, ranging from securing emergency food supplies, financial support, increasing agricultural production, and open trade. We are committed to pooling our expertise and funding to rapidly increase our political and financial support to help vulnerable countries and households, as well as to increase domestic agricultural production in and supply to affected countries.

We can ease the pressure on the balance of payments and work with all countries to maintain open trade flows. In addition, we will further strengthen the monitoring of food vulnerability and rapidly expand our multilateral policy advice to affected countries, guided by the comparative advantages of our respective institutions.

We also call on the international community to support the urgent need for funding, including through grants. This should include funding for immediate food supplies, and security networks to meet the needs of the poor and small farmers facing higher raw material prices.

We also call on all countries to keep trade open and to avoid restrictive measures such as bans on the export of food or fertilizers, which further aggravate the suffering of the most vulnerable. It is particularly important not to impose export restrictions on humanitarian food purchases from the UN World Food Program.

Rapid and coherent support for food insecurity is crucial. We are ready to work together with our multilateral and bilateral partners to help the countries deal with this extraordinary crisis. “

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