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War in Ukraine Will Worsen Hunger, UN Agency Says

A Ukrainian firefighter walks inside a large food products storage facility which was destroyed by an airstrike in the early morning hours on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 13, 2022.

The World Food Program is warning the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine threatens severe food shortages and acute hunger there, and risks triggering a global surge in hunger and malnutrition.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has driven millions of Ukrainians from their homes, forced them to hide in bomb shelters and forage for scraps of food and water.

Jakob Kern, World Food Program emergency coordinator for Ukraine, says the war has brought many people to the brink of famine. He says, as Ukraine is also a key agricultural producer, it also is threatening food security globally, especially in hunger hot spots.

Speaking from WFP’S regional office in Krakow, Poland, Kern says the agency has mobilized enough food to feed 3 million people for a month.

“The country’s food supply chain is falling apart. Movement of goods has slowed down due to insecurity and reluctance of drivers to drive to places like Dnipro let alone Mariupol or Sumy. … We have prepositioned bulk food, wheat flour for bakeries, and food rations near the encircled cities for distribution by partners and city administrations,” Kern said.

The Black Sea basin is known as Europe’s breadbasket. It is one of the most important grain and agricultural production areas and a global grain trade route. Russian forces reportedly have kept up to 300 ships from leaving the Black Sea.

Kern says food and fuel prices are soaring, putting millions at risk of hunger in Ukraine and in particularly vulnerable Middle Eastern and North African countries.

“The consequences of the conflict in Ukraine are radiating outwards, triggering a wave of collateral hunger across the globe. Russia and Ukraine alone account for almost 30% of global wheat trade. Those shipments are on hold now. Ukraine is also, is the No. 5, actually, producer and exporter of wheat. So, that has a big impact,” Kern said.

For example, he noted Egypt imports more than 80% of its wheat from Ukraine and Lebanon more than 50%. He said these and other countries such as Tunisia, Algeria and Yemen that are dependent on Ukrainian wheat will have to find other sources, pushing food prices up further.