The United Nations warned on Wednesday that the growing global food crisis could continue for years if left unchecked, as the World Bank announced an additional 12 12 billion in funding to mitigate its “devastating effects.”
Rising temperatures, the coronavirus epidemic, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have led to growing food insecurity, leading to severe shortages of grain and fertilizers.
At a major UN meeting on global food security in New York, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war “threatens millions of people on the brink of food insecurity.”
He said that “malnutrition, widespread hunger and famine, a crisis that could persist year after year” could follow, as he and others urged Russia to suspend Ukrainian grain exports.
Russia and Ukraine alone produce 30 percent of the world’s wheat supply.
Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine and international economic sanctions on Russia have disrupted supplies of both countries’ fertilizers, wheat and other commodities, and have pushed up food and fuel prices, especially in developing countries.
Prior to the February invasion, Ukraine was seen as the world’s breadbasket, exporting 4.5 million tons of agricultural products per month through its ports – 12 percent of the planet’s wheat, 15 percent of corn and half of sunflower oil.
But with Odessa, Chornomorsk and other ports cut off from the world by Russian warships, supplies can only travel through congested land routes that are much less efficient.
“Let’s be clear: there is no effective solution to the food crisis without re-integrating Ukraine’s food production,” Guterres said.
“Russia must allow safe and secure export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports.”
The call was echoed by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who chaired the summit, and World Food Program chief David Beasley.
“The world is on fire. We have the solution. We have to work and we have to work now,” Bisley pleaded.
Russia is the world’s leading supplier of fertilizers and gas.
Fertilizers are not subject to Western sanctions, but measures taken against the Russian financial system have hampered sales while Moscow has also restricted exports, diplomats say.
Guterres also said that Russian food and fertilizers “must have full and limited access to the world market.”
– Ukraine only ‘latest shock’ –
Moscow, which had not been invited to Wednesday’s UN meeting, began food insecurity before it attacked its neighbor on February 24.
In just two years, the number of severely food insecure people has doubled – from 135 million pre-epidemics to 276 million today, according to the United Nations.
More than half a million people are living in famine, an increase of more than 500 percent since 2016, the World Health Organization says.
The World Bank’s announcement will bring the total funding available for projects to $ 30 billion over the next 15 months.
The new funding will help boost food and fertilizer production, facilitate greater trade and help vulnerable families and producers, the World Bank said.
The Bank has previously announced 18.7 billion in funding for projects related to “food and nutrition security issues” for Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia and South Asia.
Washington welcomes the decision, which is part of a joint action plan by multilateral lenders and regional development banks to tackle the food crisis.
The Treasury Department has described Russia’s war as “a recent global shock that has exacerbated the acute and chronic food insecurity in recent years” as it commended organizations for working swiftly to address the problem.
India has banned wheat exports over the weekend, which has pushed up grain prices.
The ban was announced on Saturday, initially due to a drop in production due to extreme heat waves.
World Bank President David Malpas said countries should “increase energy and fertilizer supplies, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that hinder exports and imports, divert food to biofuels or encourage unnecessary savings.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)