AUSTIN, Texas — The impact of the Ukraine-Russia war on poverty in Asia and the Pacific is intensifying as the fighting heightens. Russia and Ukraine are both exporters of essential agricultural produce and oil to developing countries worldwide. Along with providing significant fertilizer exports, Russia and Ukraine collectively provide approximately 30% of the world’s wheat supply and more than 50% of the globe’s sunflower oil.
However, the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia has led to a blockade of exports of these critical products. Russia is currently under sanctions from several countries, which has prevented developing countries from importing their grains and oil from Russia. The Black Sea ports of Mariupol and Odesa that Ukraine uses for transportation of its agricultural products have been defunct due to attacks from Russia. This has led to a global shortage of food and oil supplies, which impacts poverty in Asia and the Pacific.
The Impact of the Ukraine-Russia War on Fuel Poverty in Asia and the Pacific
The impact of the Ukraine-Russia war on poverty in Asia and the Pacific materializes in the form of fuel price increases. The restrictions on the exports of fuel and oil due to the war have caused an increase in these prices. For example, the World Bank warned in April 2022 that fuel prices in Thailand could “increase by an average of 10[%] over the year” because of the restrictions on the imports of oil and gas. This would lead to a 0.7% decrease in Thailand’s national income, which would push more Thai citizens into poverty.
Countries commonly refer to Ukraine and Russia as the breadbaskets of the world. Thus, the restrictions on the imports and exports of grains and crops from these countries have increased food insecurity in developing countries. The food price increase highlights the impact of the Ukraine-Russia war on poverty in Asia and the Pacific.
For example, the Fiji government distributed 4,000 food packages in the Western Division of Fiji from January to March of 2022 because citizens could not afford food. In fact, impoverished people in Fiji are living in conditions of up to 18 people in one home.
Efforts by Asian and Pacific Countries to Mitigate Rising Poverty Rates
Despite the dire nature of the poverty situation that the Ukraine-Russia war caused, governments in Asia and the Pacific are taking steps to alleviate the struggles of their citizens. On April 28, 2022, Indonesia banned exports of its palm oil in order to reduce its rising price, which the shortage of palm oil globally caused. On May 23, 2022, Indonesia lifted the ban as the situation stabilized and workers in the palm oil industry faced harsh impacts due to a reduction in demand. Similarly, India banned exports of its wheat on May 14, 2022, to keep domestic prices of wheat low.
Other Efforts to Mitigate Rising Poverty Rates
International organizations and agencies responded quickly to the rising food insecurity situation in Asia and the Pacific. On May 11, 2022, the World Food Programme (WFP) gave out 3,800 afghani (about $40) to 3,000 Afghans living in the Khwaja Rawash district in Kabul, Afghanistan, which has a high number of citizens living in poverty. The WFP says that the money given to the Afghans would “help them make it through the month.”
Other countries also mobilized swiftly to lessen the impact of the Ukraine-Russia war on poverty in Asia and the Pacific. For example, on May 20, 2022, Japan gave the WFP $1.5 million so it can “provide three months’ essential food supplies” to “approximately 15,000 urban and rural people” as well as 380,000 school children in Sri Lanka. Around the same time, India shipped more than $5.6 million worth of “rice, milk powder and medicines” to the Sri Lankan capital city of Colombo.
The Ukraine-Russia war highlights the willingness of the international community to support vulnerable populations in times of need. The WFP has acted quickly to tackle starvation within Afghanistan by targeting its most impoverished neighborhood in its capital city of Kabul. India has delivered food and medicine to Sri Lanka while tackling its own food poverty. This shows that eradicating global poverty is always possible even in times of economic crisis and war.
– Abdullah Dowaihy