With the world “heading towards starvation,” said David Beasley, “the best thing we can do right now is end this damn war in Russia and Ukraine and open up a port” in Odessa.

Abdullahi Mohamed accompanies his son Adan, who is being treated for severe malnutrition, at Baardhere District Hospital in drought-stricken Jubaland, Somalia, March 13, 2022. (Photo: World Food Program)

Kenny Stancil / shared dreams

As food prices rise and world hunger rises, hundreds of millions of people around the world are “heading towards starvation”, increasing the likelihood of preventable deaths, civil unrest and political violence in the coming months, UN food chief says. warned Thursday.

Speaking from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, World Food Program (WFP) director David Beasley said the “frightening” shortage of staple foods is putting tens of millions of lives at risk and could destabilize countries heavily dependent on imports.

“Even before the Ukraine crisis, we were facing an unprecedented global food crisis due to Covid and rising fuel prices,” Beasley said. “Then we thought it couldn’t get any worse, but this war was devastating.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February and introduced blockade of their Black Sea portsUkraine’s agricultural exports, which account for 9% of the world’s wheat, 16% of corn and 42% of sunflower oil, have fallen sharply, leaving millions of tons of stored grain on the verge of rotting.

The war has also disrupted this year’s planting season, raising fears that this summer’s crop, provided there is sufficient labor and storage space, will be a third lower than in 2021.

As a result, food prices soared to record heights— levels last seen during the global crisis of 2007-2008, when bread price spikes fueled the Arab Spring uprisings — and put tens of millions of people at increased risk of extreme hunger.

Citing increased shipping, fertilizer and fuel costs associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and the war in Ukraine, Beasley said the number of people suffering from “chronic hunger” has risen from 650 million to 810 million over the past five years. .

Meanwhile, the number of people suffering from “shock hunger,” which Beasley defined as not knowing “where to get your next meal,” rose from 80 million to 325 million in the same time period.

Russia’s war with Ukraine is not the only factor causing global famine. the highest ever in 2021 and has only gotten worse since then.

BUT report released earlier this month by WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations made it clear that armed conflict, increasingly extreme weather associated with the fossil fuel climate emergency, and the ongoing economic impact of the coronavirus crisis…lengthy unequal access to vaccines, tests and treatments — also exacerbate food insecurity.

Responding to a report warning that a record high of 49 million people in 46 low-income countries is now at risk of famine, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) said earlier this week that “this should be the biggest story in the world right now.”

As the global hunger crisis grows more serious, the UN’s ability to deal with the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe is simultaneously diminishing.

Sources of WFP 70% wheat for their emergency aid programs from Russia and Ukraine. As a result of the war, WFP’s operating costs increased by $70 million per month, forcing it to slash rations by as much as half in some countries.

According to a recent UN report, of the nearly 50 million people at risk of hunger worldwide, 750,000 are already in the “catastrophe,” the worst phase of the food insecurity scale.

Ethiopian, Nigerian, Somali, South Sudanese and Yemen– War-torn and drought-torn countries that import large quantities of wheat from Russia and Ukraine are among those experiencing the worst acute famine. Another hotspot mentioned in the report is Afghanistanwhose central bank reserves were seized the Biden administration.

Referring to the crash that began in 2007 and culminated in bread riots in dozens of countries, Beasley said “the economic factors we have today are much worse than those we saw 15 years ago.” He warned that failure to confront the current crisis would lead to “famine, the destabilization of nations and mass migration.”

“We are already seeing riots in Sri Lanka and protests in Tunisia, Pakistan and Peru, and destabilization is happening in places like Burkina Faso, Mali, [and] Chad,” Beasley said. “This is only a foreshadowing of things to come.”

“This is a very, very scary time,” Beasley continued. “Hell on Earth threatens us if we do not respond immediately. The best thing we can do right now is to end this damn war in Russia and Ukraine and open a port in Odessa.

Kenny Stancil

Kenny Stancil is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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