The United Nations warned on Wednesday that if a rising global food crisis is not addressed, it may endure years, as the World Bank announced an additional $12 billion in funding to help offset its “devastating impacts.”
Warming temperatures, the coronavirus pandemic, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have all exacerbated food insecurity, resulting in catastrophic grain and fertilizer shortages.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the violence “threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity” at a key United Nations summit on global food security in New York.
As he and others lobbied Russia to allow Ukrainian grain exports, he warned of “malnutrition, mass starvation, and famine in a catastrophe that might linger for years.”
Russia and Ukraine together produce 30% of the world’s wheat.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia and international economic sanctions against Russia have hampered supplies of fertilizer, wheat, and other commodities from both countries, raising food and fuel prices, particularly in poor countries.
Ukraine was formerly regarded as the world’s breadbasket, shipping 4.5 million tons of agricultural produce every month through its ports — 12 percent of the world’s wheat, 15% of its corn, and half of its sunflower oil — until the invasion in February.
However, with Russian warships cutting off the ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk, and others from the rest of the world, supplies must rely on clogged land routes that are significantly less efficient.
“Let’s be clear: without reintegrating Ukraine’s food output, there is no meaningful solution to the food crisis,” Guterres stated.
“Russia must allow the transfer of grain stored at Ukrainian ports in a safe and secure manner.”
The call was echoed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who presided over the summit, and World Food Programme Director David Beasley.
“Everything is on fire.” We have answers. “We have to act, and we have to act immediately,” Beasley pleaded.
Russia is the world’s leading fertilizer and gas provider.
The fertilizers are not subject to Western sanctions, but officials claim that restrictions against the Russian financial system have hindered sales, and that Moscow has also curbed exports.
Russian food and fertilizers, according to Guterres, “must have complete and unrestricted access to world markets.”
Food hunger had already begun to rise before Moscow invaded its neighbor on February 24, despite the fact that it had been invited to Wednesday’s UN meeting.
According to the UN, the number of people who are extremely food insecure has doubled in just two years, from 135 million pre-pandemic to 276 million today.
According to the UN, more than half a million people are suffering from famine, an increase of more than 500% since 2016.
With the World Bank’s announcement, the total amount of cash available for projects over the next 15 months will reach $30 billion.
According to the World Bank, the increased money will help boost food and fertilizer production, enable greater commerce, and support disadvantaged households and producers.
The bank has previously announced $18.7 billion in funding for projects in Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia related to “food and nutrition security challenges.”
Washington applauded the decision, which is part of a multilateral and regional development bank action plan to alleviate the food crisis.
The Treasury Department called Russia’s war “the latest global shock” that is “exacerbating the significant increase in both acute and chronic food insecurity seen in recent years,” and praised institutions for acting quickly to address the problems.
India prohibited wheat exports over the weekend, sending wheat prices rising.
The embargo was declared on Saturday in response to lower production due to a prolonged heat wave.
“Countries should work together to increase energy and fertilizer supplies, assist farmers in increasing plantings and agricultural yields, and eliminate regulations that restrict exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage wasteful storage,” said World Bank President David Malpass.