TALLAHASSEE, Florida — The Russia-Ukraine war began on February 24, 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine. A Statista article stated that “The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) verified 4,169 deaths of civilians in Ukraine during the war as of June 1.” Since the war started, many Ukrainians have fled their native countries heading for Poland, Romania, Russia and Hungary. This caused a huge displacement of people, in turn reflecting in food supply and demand. During the Russia-Ukraine war, emergency relief operations from the U.N.’s anti-hunger organization, The World Food Programme (WFP), have been taking place in and around Ukraine. The WFP is prepared to provide food to 3.1 million people.
How the Russia-Ukraine War Could Cause a Global Food Crisis
The U.N. has said that the war in Ukraine could negatively affect food security for years to come. A BBC article stated that “Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war had worsened food insecurity in poorer nations due to rising prices.” Guterres noted that if Ukrainian exports do not decrease to pre-war levels, other countries might endure longer-lasting famines. Ukrainian ports were shipping out corn, maize and cereal before all supplies their cut off as of this moment.
According to the U.N., global food prices have soared 30% from one year ago. This further proves how the Russia-Ukraine War has increased food costs and decreased food supply. The BBC article also explained how “Russia and Ukraine produce 30% of the world’s wheat supply and – prior to the war – Ukraine was seen as the world’s bread basket, exporting 4.5 million tonnes of agricultural produce per month through its ports.”
The Impact of the War on Food Inflation and the Global Food Market
According to the U.N., one way to ease the global food demand would be to release the 20 million tons of grains held in Ukrainian ports due to the war. Even before the war in Ukraine people have been suffering due to higher costs of living from the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States Institute of Peace remarks that “In 36 countries, food inflation is at 15% or higher, causing major problems for poor families who spend upwards of 50% of their income on food.” The USIP also stated that “Seven countries make up 86% of wheat exports, while three countries hold 68% of the world’s wheat reserves.” Ukraine alone can feed 400 million people according to PBS.
The global food market is highly concentrated. The war in Ukraine may hinder the global supply of food due to the concentrated market, increasing food costs. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken believes Russia is intentionally using food as a Ukraine war weapon by halting their exports. The tactic of using food as a war weapon is certainly not new, nevertheless, it is quite troubling.
The World Food Program (WFP) in Ukraine
World Food Programme Emergency Coordinator Matthew Hollingworth discussed the impact and challenges associated with the Russia-Ukraine war in an interview. Hollingsworth recounted his primary reflections from his experiences providing food for Ukrainians stating that “It’s heartbreaking that we have to be here to provide food for people who have fled from war and who have lost their homes, their jobs and can no longer support themselves.”
Hollingsworth also stated that “Three months in and it pains me to say that this war isn’t ending soon. The number of people who are affected is growing and the longer this war continues, the more the needs will increase.” Hollingworth explains how the Russia-Ukraine war is tragic for other nations because Ukraine served as a major food export country, making this a war and a humanitarian crisis. If the Russia-Ukraine war continues, expectations of acute hunger will rise by 47% in 120 countries that The World Food Program serves.
The Plans of The World Food Program
The world’s hunger crisis is at catastrophic proportions, which is exactly why organizations similar to The WFP are in place to aid countries like Ukraine facing a food shortage. So far in May, the WFP has been able to feed 2.2 million Ukrainians with the hope of feeding 3 million in June 2022. To further aid Ukraine, the WFP has stated that “We are opening more offices, more warehouses, and packaging facilities, organizing distributions, recruiting and training national staff, and ultimately, trying to ensure that we’re as close as possible to where the most significant food needs are.”
As for accessing areas impacted directly by the war, the WFP is reaching the furthest possible impacted locations including the Kharkivska, Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts with the assistance of the Ukrainian Red Cross and other organizations. The organization will continue to reach people in homes or cities as much as possible. The WFP is appealing for “continuous, unimpeded humanitarian access.”
– Kaley Anderson