The head of the United Nations’ food industry has warned the world is facing an “unprecedented global emergency” with 345 million marching on hunger – and 70 million displaced. close to starvation. war in Ukraine.
David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Program, told the UN Security Council on Thursday about 345 million people facing foodborne illness. serious food insecurity In the 82 countries where the agency operates, the number of people suffering from food insecurity more than doubled before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.
It is extremely worrying, he said, that 50 million people in these 45 countries are severely malnourished and “hunger knocks on the door”.
“What used to be a wave of hunger is now a tsunami,” he said, pointing to growing conflict, the economic impact of the pandemic, climate change, rising fuel prices and the global crisis. Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Since Russia invaded the neighboring country on February 24, the soaring costs of food, fuel and fertilizer have brought 70 million people closer to starvation, says Beasley.
Despite an agreement in July to allow shipments of Ukrainian grain from three Black Sea ports blocked by Russia and continuing efforts to bring Russian fertilizers back to the global market, he said “there is a real and dangerous risk of many famines this year.”
“And by 2023, the current food price crisis could evolve into a ready-to-eat food crisis if we don’t act.”
‘All hands on deck’
The Security Council is focusing on food insecurity due to conflict and the potential for famine in Ethiopia, northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. But Beasley and UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths also warned of the food crisis in Somalia, which they both visited recently, and Griffiths also put Afghanistan on the high list.
“Famine will happen in Somalia. Make sure it won’t be the only place either,” Griffiths said.
He cited recent assessments that identified “hundreds of thousands of people are facing catastrophic levels of hunger” – meaning they are at the worst levels of hunger.
Beasley recalled his warning to the council in April 2020 “that we were facing a famine then, a famine of biblical proportions”. He said then the world “enhanced with tremendous funding and response, and we averted the disaster”.
“We are on the brink again, even worse, and we have to do all we can – all hand in hand with every fiber of our body,” he said. “The hungry people of the world are counting on us and … we must not let them down.”
Effects of conflict and violence
Griffiths said widespread and growing food insecurity is the result of direct and indirect effects of conflict and violence that kill and injure civilians, forcing families to flee. flee the land they depend on for income and food, and lead to economic decline and soaring prices. food they cannot afford.
After more than seven years of war in Yemen, he said, “about 19 million people – six out of 10 – are severely food insecure, an estimated 160,000 people are facing disasters, and 538,000 children I am severely malnourished.”
Beasley said the Ukraine war is causing inflation in Yemen, which is 90% dependent on food imports. The World Food Program hopes to provide aid to about 18 million people, but its costs have increased 30% this year to $2.6 billion.
As a result, people were forced to cut back on rations, so Yemenis this month received only two-thirds of their previous ration, he said.
Beasley said South Sudan faces “the highest rate of severe hunger since independence in 2011” from Sudan. He said 7.7 million people, more than 60% of the population, were “facing severe or worse levels of food insecurity”.
He warned that without a political solution to the escalating violence and significant aid spending, “many people in South Sudan will die”.
‘Exhausted family on the brink’
In the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions of northern Ethiopia, more than 13 million people need life-saving food, Griffiths said. He points to a survey in Tigray in June that found that 89% of people are food insecure, “more than half of them seriously”.
Beasley said a truce in March gave WFP and its partners access to nearly five million people in the Tigray area, but continued fighting in recent weeks “risks pushing many families away.” hungry, exhausted to the brink”.
In the northeast of Nigeria, the UN forecasts 4.1 million people are facing high levels of food insecurity, of which 588,000 people face a high level of emergency between June and August, Griffiths said. know. Nearly half of those people are unreachable because they are unsafe, and the United Nations fears “some people may have reached catastrophic levels and died”.
Griffiths called on the Security Council to “leave no stone” in trying to end these conflicts and increase funding for humanitarian operations, said the UN’s appeals. countries in those four countries are “less than half of what is needed”.