Eight weeks into Russia’s invasion, the war is having major repercussions around the world, especially on food security. The UN World Food Programme recently warned that the war was creating a food crisis “beyond anything we’ve seen since World War II.”
Ukraine and Russia are major producers of wheat, barley and corn. They account for a combined share of 27, 23 and 15 percent of global exports between 2016 and 2020. The World Food Programme gets 50% of its grain supplies from the Ukraine-Russia area. World wheat prices soared by 19.7% in March! Corn prices posted a 19.1% month-on-month increase. They hit a record high price, as did barley, sorghum and vegetable oils. Prices are only going to get worse as the war drags on. The human suffering is going to be immense.
This is a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe! War – climate change and the pandemic. Right now Climate change is impacting countries all over the world. There are : 1) floods in Australia; 2) tornados in the U.S. Southeast; 3) a tropical cyclone in Mozambique; 4) floods in South Africa; and 5) droughts in Africa (from Gambia to Angola and Eritrea to Somalia), India, Pakistan, Southern Europe, the center of South America, the Southwestern U.S., the Canadian arctic and Northeastern Australia. The predictions are it is only going to get worse. Climate change is also a driver of many of the conflicts and wars around the world. Together climate change and civil conflicts make hunger so much worse.
During the Roll/Stroll, I repeatedly warned that 100 million people could slide into severe poverty due to the Pandemic and climate change. Because of the war in Ukraine and the reductions in food, fertilizer and fuel, now 250 million people are predicted to slip into severe poverty. Internationally, hunger has many names. Severe poverty is living on less than US$2.00 per day.
“Without immediate radical action, we could be witnessing the most profound collapse of humanity into extreme poverty and suffering in memory,” said Oxfam International executive director Gabriela Bucher. “This terrifying prospect is made more sickening by the fact that trillions of dollars have been captured by a tiny group of powerful men who have no interest in interrupting this trajectory.”
In many parts of Asia, the Americas and in Africa, many people before the war in Ukraine already were spending 50-60% of their income on food. In the US, the poorest 20 percent of families are spending 27 percent of their incomes on food. The richest 20 percent spend only 7 percent of their incomes on food.
People are finding it harder to find enough food
With prices going up due to shortages and inflation, and more disruptions in the global food distribution system, people are finding it harder to find enough food. It is estimated that more than 44 million people in 38 countries are teetering on the edge of famine. Famines result in malnutrition, starvation, disease, and high death rates. 250 million facing severe poverty, while 800+ million people face hunger (food deprivation, or undernourishment fewer than 1,800 calories/day). One-in-four people globally – 1.9 billion – are moderately or severely food insecure. Even more people are suffering from simple food insecurity where they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. There are people in your town or city who right now need food!
With food prices due to the pandemic, the war, shortages of basic foods (wheat, corn, cooking oil) price going up – this is only getting worse. We have to find our humanity and raise an appropriate response despite the fact that the people worse affected are black, brown, red and yellow. There are plenty of white people who don’t have enough to eat too. Compassion is the key. We are all people, and have to act to help!