Ukraine war threatens to leave millions hungry, says U.N.

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June 9 (UPI) — The effects of Russia’s war on a world still fighting a pandemic is threatening to leave millions hungry due to climbing food and energy prices, a new United Nations report said.

Published by the U.N. Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance on Wednesday, the report said the war has extended human suffering beyond the borders of Ukraine and has “exacerbated a global cost-of-living crisis unseen in at least a generation.”

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“Three months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we face a new reality,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a press conference.

“For those on the ground, every day brings new bloodshed and suffering,” he said. “And for the people around the world, the war, together with other crises, is threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake.”

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The more vulnerable countries and people have already been hard hit by the cost-of-living crisis that’s being exacerbated by the war, but “no country of community will be left untouched,” he said.

The report states that 60% of workers have lower incomes now than they did prior to the pandemic while 60% of countries are either in debt distress or at high risk of it.

“The war’s impact on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe and speeding up,” Guterres said. “It is amplifying the consequences of the many other crises the world faces: climate, COVID-19 and severe global inequalities.”

This year between 179 million and 181 million people in 41 of 53 nations where data was available are forecast to face a food crisis with 19 million more expected to face chronic undernourishment next year if food exports from Russia and Ukraine result in lower food availability worldwide.

The report warns though that the increase in hunger since the war began may be more wide-spread as the U.N.’s World Food Program estimating that in the last two years severe food insecure people doubled from 135 million to 276 million — due to the effects of the war, that number is expected to climb to 323 this year.

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“Time is short to prevent a food crisis in 2023,” it said.

If the war continues and prices for grain and fertilizer persist into the next planting season, food availability will be reduced “at the worst possible time, and the present crisis in corn, wheat and vegetable oil could extend to other staples, affecting billions more people.”

Guterres said without fertilizers, the price for which has more than doubled amid the war, billions of people will be affected.

“This year’s food crisis is about lack of access. Next year’s could be about lack of food,” he said.

The U.N. head said there is only one way to stop this crisis, which is Russian ending its invasion of Ukraine, but until that occurs they need to bring stability to the global food and energy markets.

“Ukraine’s food production, and the food and fertilizer produced by the Russian Federation, must be brought back into world markets — despite the war,” he said.

Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, which has caused food prices to climb as together they produce 30% of the world’s supply of wheat, 20% of its maze and up to 80% of its sunflower seed oil, among other goods.

The war as affected food exports from both countries, and Guterres said he has called for the creation of two task forces to find a deal to allow for the safe and secure movement of Kyiv-produced food through the Black Sea and unimpeded access to global markets for Moscow foods and fertilizers.

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“We must act now to save lives and livelihoods over the next months and years,” he said.