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Christian Aid warns of global food shortages

24 June 2022

Alamy

Remains of a Russian Tochka-U ballistic missile are seen in a winter wheat field, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, near the town of Soledar, in the Donetsk region Ukraine, earlier this month

Remains of a Russian Tochka-U ballistic missile are seen in a winter wheat field, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, near the town of Soledar, in the ...

GLOBAL food shortages and rising energy prices are being exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and require urgent action, a new report from Christian Aid says.

Published last month, the report sets out how the conflict in Ukraine is driving up the price of food and fuel, and describes how this is already starting to affect the world’s poorest.

Christian Aid also warns that some of its work could be disrupted owing to the knock-on effect of rising prices. The charity’s Head of Asia, Middle East, Latin America, Caribbean and Global Programmes, Ray Hasan, notes: “The food we distribute is more expensive now, and sometimes we must cut back on certain items like oil so that we can help more people with the basics.”

The charity is calling on the UK Government to “take a leadership role” by pushing all the G7 countries to uphold their commitment under the bloc’s Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Crises Compact, agreed last year.

On 15 June, the Minister for Asia and the Middle East, Amanda Milling, confirmed that the UK had provided its share of the $7 billion allocated under the agreement for countries that are considered to be “one step from famine”.

Christian Aid is also calling for new funding to “scale up crisis preparedness and response”, and repeated its demand that last year’s cuts to international aid be reversed (News, 20 May 2022).

“The time to act is now,” the head of Christian Aid’s Humanitarian Division, Michael Mosselmans, said. He continued: “We must be clear — we are facing a humanitarian crisis. Poverty and hunger are set to rise exponentially in some of the poorest parts of the world. Christian Aid is hearing of growing fears that a food crisis could lead to riots and instability.”

The charity identifies a shift to sustainable farming methods, and energy production as crucial to a long-term solution, in part because it would reduce reliance on Russian gas and food exports.

The report details ways in which the conflict in Ukraine has exacerbated a situation already rendered perilous by climate breakdown and Covid-19. Hunger has almost doubled since 2019, and Oxfam has estimated that the number of people living in “famine-like conditions” has risen by a factor of six, since the start of the pandemic, to 520,000.

“These figures are likely to be dwarfed if the shocks caused by the war in Ukraine hit the world’s most vulnerable unchecked,” the report warns.

The conflict in Ukraine has led to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure, as farm equipment and grain stores have been targeted by Russian troops. In addition, many Ukrainians who used to work as farmers have either been displaced or joined the army, and so crops cannot be harvested.

The Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denis Shmyhal, has said that the government expect a 20 per cent decrease in crops to be sown this spring.

The Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports also means that exports have been disrupted. Before the war, Ukraine exported six million tonnes of grain and oilseed a month, but this fell to 200,000 tonnes in March this year.

In April, the country’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Taras Vysotsky, said that Ukraine has 13 million tons of corn and 3.8 million tons of wheat that it cannot export using normal routes across the Black Sea.

The impact of war means that Ukraine itself is increasingly in need of food aid. The Christian Aid report quotes the executive director of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, who has described Ukraine as going “from the breadbasket of the world to breadline”.

The WFP provides a lifeline against starvation in countries such as Yemen and Afghanistan, but 50 per cent of the grain bought by the agency comes from Ukraine. “We have to take food from the hungry to give to the starving,” Mr Beasley says.

Last Friday, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, asserted that food shortages around the world are “something we would very much like to avoid”.

Mr Putin was speaking at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

After insisting that the “negative effects” that some countries might experience owing to food shortages were “not something that makes us happy”, President Putin said that he had “no doubt” that “many of our partners, at least in Europe, will return to the Russian market and will once again enjoy working here. . . They will be compelled to do so, while we will not stand in their way.”

Christian Aid’s report Ukraine Crisis Impacts: Food and energy can be downloaded here.

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