UN Food Chief Sees 'Catastrophe on Top of a Catastrophe'

Says rations are having to be cut due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 30, 2022 10:10 AM CDT
UN Food Chief Sees 'Catastrophe on Top of a Catastrophe'
Fields of wheat belonging to Ivan Kilgan in Luky village, western Ukraine, Friday, March 25, 2022. The northwestern Lviv region, far from the heart of what is known as Ukraine's breadbasket in the south, is being asked to plant all the available fields it can.   (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

(Newser) – The UN food chief warned Tuesday the war in Ukraine has created "a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe" and will have a global impact "beyond anything we’ve seen since World War II" because many of the Ukrainian farmers who produce a significant amount of the world’s wheat are now fighting Russians. David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Program, told the UN Security Council his agency was feeding 125 million people around the world before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24; those rations have had to be cut because of rising food, fuel, and shipping costs. He pointed to war-torn Yemen where 8 million people just had their food allotment cut by 50%, "and now we’re looking at going to zero rations."

Ukraine and Russia produce 30% of the world's wheat supply, 20% of its corn, and 75% to 80% of the sunflower seed oil. The World Food Program buys 50% of its grain from Ukraine, he said. The war there is devastating countries like Egypt that normally gets 85% of its grain from Ukraine, and Lebanon that got 81% in 2020. Russia, for its part, blames the "serious turbulence" in the global food market on "the unbridled sanctions hysteria that the West has unleashed against Russia."

As for hunger within Ukraine, Beasley said the World Food Program is reaching about a million people inside the country with food now, and will reach 2.5 million over the next four weeks, 4 million by the end of May, and hopefully 6 million by the end of June. The price tag is about $500 million for the first three months and "we are short by about $300 million," he said. Beasley also warned that focusing on Ukraine should not lead the international community to neglect Africa, especially the Sahel, and the Middle East, because "otherwise, you’ll have massive migration" coming to all parts of Europe.

A key quote from Beasley: "If we end the conflict, address the needs, we can avoid famine, destabilization of nations and mass migration. But if we don’t, the world will pay a mighty price and the last thing we want to do as the World Food Program is taking food from hungry children to give to starving children." (Read more famine stories.)

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