Russia-Ukraine conflict threatens to unleash unprecedented wave of hunger: Guterres

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The war in Ukraine threatens to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made these remarks during the second briefing of the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy, and Finance.

He warns that the ripple effects of the conflict are extending human suffering far beyond its borders, exacerbating the global cost-of-living unseen in at least a generation – compromising lives, livelihoods, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

UN Chief Antonio Guterres says, “Vulnerable people and countries are already being hit hard. But make no mistake: no country or community will be left untouched by this cost-of-living crisis. Food prices are at near-record highs. Fertiliser prices have more than doubled, sounding an alarm everywhere. Without fertiliser, shortages will spread from corn and wheat to all staple crops, including rice, with a devastating impact on billions of people in Asia and South America. This year’s food crisis is about lack of access. Next years could be about lack of food. Record high energy prices are triggering blackouts and fuel shortages in all parts of the world, especially Africa.”

The brief on the global impact of Ukraine’s war warns that billions of people are facing the greatest cost-of-living crisis in a generation, compounding the stress caused by two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had already left economies in a fragile state.

Guterres calls for an end to the Ukraine-Russia conflict:

‘Russian invasion to end’

Guterres believes that the only way to stop the gathering storm is for the Russian invasion of Ukraine to end and for a political solution to be found in line with international law and the UN Charter.

But until that happens, he calls for action on two fronts – for resources to be made available immediately to help the poorest countries and communities keep their economies afloat and most urgently, for Ukraine and Russian food and fertiliser supplies to be brought back into the world markets as the UN works behind the scenes to broker such a packaged deal.

UN Chief says, “This deal is essential for hundreds of millions of people in developing countries, including in sub-Saharan Africa. Rebeca (Grynspan) and Martin (Griffiths) have been working closely with all parties to move this forward. In the past ten days, they have held direct contact with Moscow, Kyiv, Ankara, Brussels, and Washington. At this point, saying anything more in public would jeopardise the chances of success. I ask for your understanding. This is one of those moments when silent diplomacy is necessary – and the welfare of millions of people around the world could depend on it.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Turkey earlier Wednesday for talks on creating a safe maritime corridor in the Black Sea for grain exports from Ukraine but nothing had yet been decided.

While the UN believes it will take global action to fix this global crisis as the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Rebeca Grynspan, explains, “Today, the world faces a crisis of access. There is enough of everything but at the wrong price, in the wrong place, and at the wrong time. Tomorrow, the world may face a crisis of availability where there may be not enough essential supplies, no matter where, when, and at what price. That is why we continue to insist that the problems of access, price, and timing must be tackled at the same time. We are in a race against time. This is why we are calling for action, action, action.”

The report also warns that if the war continues and grain and fertiliser’s high prices persist into the next planting season, the crisis could extend into other basic foods such as rice, affecting billions more.