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Pandemic, ripple effects of Ukraine war: UN warns 345 million people in 82 countries headed for starvation

United Nations: The UN food chief has warned that the world is facing “a global emergency of unprecedented magnitude”, with 345 million people headed for starvation, and 70 million near starvation from the war in Ukraine . David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, told the United Nations Security Council that in the 82 countries where the agency operates, 345 million people face acute food insecurity, which was highly food insecure prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 2 times the number of people. Hits in 2020.

He said it was incredibly disturbing that 50 million of those people in 45 countries suffer from very acute malnutrition and are “knocking on the door of famine.” “The wave of hunger is now a tsunami of hunger,” he said, pointing to the escalating conflict, the economic ripple effects of the pandemic, climate change, rising fuel prices and the war in Ukraine. Ever since Russia attacked its neighbor on February 24, Beasley said, rising costs of food, fuel and fertilizer have driven 70 million people closer to starvation.

Despite agreements reached in July allowing Ukraine’s grain to be shipped from three Black Sea ports that had been blocked by Russia and continued efforts to bring Russian fertilizer back to global markets, “there have been several famines this year”. There is a real and alarming risk of ?, he said. ?And in 2023, the current food price crisis could develop into a food availability crisis if we do not take action.”

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The Security Council was focusing on conflict-induced food insecurity and the risk of famine in Ethiopia, northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. But Beasley and UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths also warned about the food crisis in Somalia, which they both recently visited, and Griffith also ranked Afghanistan high on the list. “There will be a famine in Somalia,” Griffiths said, and “make sure it won’t be the only place either.”

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He cited recent assessments that “hundreds of thousands of people are facing devastating levels of hunger,” meaning they are at their worst “famine” levels. Beasley recalled his warning to the council in April 2020 “that we were facing famine at the time, starvation of biblical proportions.”

He added that then the world “stepped up with funding and an overwhelming response, and we averted the catastrophe.” “We are on edge once again, even worse, and we must do all we can, with all hands on deck with every fiber of our bodies,” he said. “The world’s hungry people are counting on us, and “we must not let them down.”

Griffiths said that widespread and growing food insecurity is the result of the direct and indirect effects of conflict and violence that kill and injure civilians, forcing families to flee the land on which they depend for income and food. and leads to economic decline and rising prices. Food they can’t stand.

After more than seven years of war in Yemen, he said, “nearly 19 million people, six in 10, are highly food insecure, an estimated 160,000 suffer devastation, and 538,000 children are severely malnourished.” Beasley said the Ukraine war is fueling inflation in Yemen, which is 90% dependent on food imports. The World Food Program expects to provide aid to about 18 million people, but this year its cost has increased by 30% to $2.6 billion. As a result, it has been forced to cut back, so Yemenis are getting only two-thirds of their previous ration this month, he said.

Beasley said that South Sudan is facing “its highest rate of acute hunger since its independence in 2011” from Sudan. He added that 7.7 million people, more than 60% of the population, “are facing severe or worse levels of food insecurity.” Without a political solution to the escalating violence and substantial spending on aid programs, “many people will die in South Sudan,” he warned.

Griffiths said that in the Tigre, Afar and Amhara regions of northern Ethiopia, more than 13 million people need life-saving food. He pointed to a survey in Tigre in June that found 89% of people are food insecure, “more than half of them are severely so.” Beasley said a cease-fire in March enabled the WFP and its allies to reach about 5 million people in the Tigre region, but resumed in recent weeks “with the need to push many hungry, exhausted families over the edge”. threat.”

Griffiths said that in northeastern Nigeria, the United Nations projects that 4.1 million people are facing high levels of food insecurity, including 588,000 who faced emergency levels between June and August. He said about half of them could not be reached because of insecurity, and the UN fears that “some people may already be at the level of catastrophe and are already dying.” Griffiths urged the Security Council to “leave no stone unturned” in trying to end these conflicts and to increase funding for humanitarian work, saying the UN appeals in those four countries account for less than half of all needed funding. .

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