Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Coming Famine?

“When war is waged, people go hungry”, said António Guterres, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, noting that 60 per cent of the world’s undernourished people live in areas affected by conflict. In 2021, most of the 140 million people suffering acute hunger lived in just 10 countries: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. “When this Council debates conflict, you debate hunger,” he stressed. “And when you fail to reach consensus, hungry people pay a high price.” (UN Press Release, May 19, 2022)

A Ukrainian farmer, from "How Russia’s war in Ukraine upended the breadbasket of Europe"

Food scarcity has been increasing drastically as the war in Ukraine reduces production and distribution of grain and cooking oil from the war-torn region. Russian troops have targeted farms, warehouses, and shipping channels, threatening famine in a number of countries that rely on Ukrainian supplies of grain and oil. Ukrainian farmers who should be planting crops cannot do so as buildings, equipment, and fields have been destroyed by military action. Hunger is a major problem for the Ukrainians, whose homes have been destroyed and whose lives are totally disrupted. Because Ukraine is a major exporter, the war also threatens millions of people in other countries with starvation.

At the economic summit in Davos this week, the European Commission president pointed out that Russia is intentionally destroying Ukrainian ability to supply grain and cooking oil to many countries, which depend on these supplies. Essential shipments of grain from Russia have also been disrupted, further contributing to the looming catastrophe.

Earlier this week, statements by UN representatives and by the head of the European Commission have highlighted the crisis, which has sent prices soaring in many places, and is already causing famine. Some quotes from the last few days:
  • "The head of the United Nations has said there is a looming global food crisis because of the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine." (Sky News)
  • "The world’s food distribution network was already strained by pandemic-related disruptions, and exports from Ukraine, ordinarily among the world’s biggest suppliers, have plummeted because of the war. Russia has seized some the country’s Black Sea ports and blockaded the rest, trapping cargo vessels laden with corn, wheat, sunflower seeds, barley and oats." (New York Times)
  • "In Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, the number of people facing extreme hunger has more than doubled since last year, from roughly 10 million to more than 23 million today... . Across the three countries, the report notes, one person is likely dying every 48 seconds from acute hunger-related causes stemming from armed conflict, COVID-19, climate change and inflationary pressures worsened by the war in Ukraine." (NPR News)
  • In Iran last week public protests and violence were a reaction when, "prices for cooking oil quadrupled and for chicken and eggs doubled. The price of flat bread increased fivefold this month, and that of baguettes and sandwich rolls as much as tenfold." (New York Times)
  • India, the world's second biggest producer of wheat after China, banned export of grain on May 16. The impact will be widespread: 
    • "In the 12 months to March, India cashed in on soaring global prices, exporting a record 7 million metric tons of the grain. That was up more than 250% on the previous year's volumes. It had also set record export targets for the coming year." (CNN)
    • "Top destinations for Indian exports included Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal and Turkey, and top global buyer Egypt recently agreed to make a first ever purchase of Indian wheat as Cairo tried to replace lost shipments from the Black Sea." (Reuters)
  • "The World Food Programme estimates about 49 million people face emergency levels of hunger. About 811 million go to bed hungry each night. The  number of people on the brink of starvation across Africa’s Sahel region, for example, is at least 10 times higher than in pre-Covid 2019." (The Guardian)
I feel totally helpless as I watch the news of this global disaster. I know how lucky I am to live in a prosperous country that produces its own food. Americans are experiencing price increases in most food products as well as other commodities, but we don't face the same fate as the Africans and other people facing these shortages. 

Blog post © 2022 mae sander.


Jenn Jilks said...

It is evil, horrible, and disgusting what Russia is doing. We have so many things we face in this world, and this was just awful.
Canada has been welcoming plane loads of Ukranians, we've a large community or immigrants, and that makes me feel better.

DVArtist said...

How can anyone think any of this is OK? I am sickened by the world, and especially my country. Since loosing 2/3 of my income, due to covid, food is my main focus. I can't imagine what Ukrainians are going through, not having anything or anyway to get the basics.

eileeninmd said...

I read this post and think we should never take anything we have for granted.
I am worried about the baby formula shortage for my grandchildren. For all other food items we are doing well, just paying more for the items we want.
I hope Russia pays for there evil ways, attacking and invading Ukraine. What country will they go after next? Take care, enjoy your day!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Thank you for the cogent reporting Mae. It is all so terrible. I don't even begin to have the words. But I don't complain about the prices of food and nor do I take it for granted -- I know we are fortunate to live here and can afford what we need -- as not everybody can, even here in America.

Tandy | Lavender and Lime ( said...

I read that Russian forces are stealing grain from Ukraine to keep themselves fed. All this hunger and food insecurity is awful. Have you read up on what's happening in Sri Lanka?

Iris Flavia said...

Yes, prices are rising, and I´m not even sure why really, yet we are still rich enough to throw food away (well, not us, I speak of in general people do).
Did I ever go to bed hungry? No.
It´s an unfair, weird world.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

In the coming years, we will look back at the baby formula crisis as a mere blip in the whole scheme of things. I'm going to go into the nearest wheat field and hug it. Thanks for sharing this informative post. Although I was keenly aware of the situation, I fear most are not.

Jeanie said...

It just doesn't get any better, does it? I've only noticed a few price hikes, but they aren't small. (Of course, now that I think of it, I've been seeing a lot of same prices-but-lesser-quantities.)

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I can remember being a child in the sixties, imagining how much better the world would be when I was a grownup.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why that hasn't happened.

Tina said...

The prices have skyrocketed lately and we are making good use of the buy-one-get-one deals and stocking up. Vegetable oil is very high now as are so many things.

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

You have shed some light on a very disturbing subject. In the end, I agree that we are mostly helpless. But it does make me realize that paying another dollar for an item is not a catastrophe compared to what is going on in the countries that you highlighted. And what's going on in Ukraine is heartbreading and cruel.

Beth F said...

inflation is going to do in many people here.

Marg said...

We are dealing with increasing prices, for food, well for everything really. The one thing that the pandemic taught us is that we are not protected from events around the world as much as we might once have been.

Thanks for a very interesting post

thecuecard said...

This is really troubling news. This war is so senseless! This invasion must be stopped. I dont know what will happen at this point.