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Yogyakarta (Indonesia) (AFP) – The global food crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine will take the lives of millions of people, leaving the hungry more vulnerable to infectious diseases, which could trigger the next global health catastrophe, the head of a major aid organization has warned.

A Russian naval blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports has halted grain shipments from the world’s fourth-largest exporter of wheat and corn, heightening the threat of shortages and famine in low-income countries.

The side effects of food shortages mean that many will die not only from starvation, but also from poor protection against infectious diseases due to poor nutrition, Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, told AFP this week. .

“I think we have probably already started our next health crisis. This is not a new pathogen, but it means that people who are malnourished will be more vulnerable to existing diseases,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the G20 health minister. Meeting in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.

“I think the cumulative impact of infectious diseases, food shortages and the energy crisis … we can talk about millions of additional deaths because of this,” he said.

World governments must minimize the impact of the food crisis by providing advanced health care to their poorest communities, who will be the most vulnerable, said a former British banker who now leads a $4 billion fund.

“It means focusing on primary health care, which is health care that is provided in the villages, in the communities. Hospitals are important, but when you face these kinds of problems, the most important thing is primary health care.”


“It was a disaster for TB,” Sands said.

“In 2020, you saw that there are 1.5 million fewer people being treated for TB worldwide, and unfortunately this means that several hundred thousand people will die, but also that these people will infect other people.”

The health expert said addressing the food crisis is now paramount to curing the world’s second deadliest infectious disease.

The West and Ukraine accuse Russia of trying to force them to make concessions by blocking vital grain exports to fuel fears of global famine.

The Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea has halted grain shipments and led to growing global food shortages.
The Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea has halted grain shipments and led to growing global food shortages. Alexander Gimanov AFP

In response, Moscow said that it was Western sanctions that were to blame for the shortage of funds in the Middle East and Africa.

On Friday, Germany will host a meeting on the crisis called “Uniting for Global Food Security” with the participation of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

“This is a pandemic of the poor, and because of that, it has not attracted as much investment in research and development,” Sands said, referring to tuberculosis.

“It’s a tragedy because it’s a disease that we know how to prevent, how to cure, we know how to get rid of.”

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