United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned that the country of Ukraine was being decimated before the world’s eyes, with the impact on civilians reaching terrifying proportions as he appealed for peace and diplomacy.
Guterres was addressing the devastating impacts of the Russian invasion and military assault on Ukraine as concerns grow in respect to rising hunger and dwindling supplies of water and medicine there.
The UN Chief also pointed to the wider implications of the conflict that now hangs over the global economy with a growing sense of urgency that the poorest regions of the world would suffer the broader economic consequences of this conflict most acutely – an environment that could lead to growing political instability and unrest.
“Ukraine is on fire…”
The Secretary General not mincing his words – pointing to the targeting of roads, airports and schools by Russian forces – infrastructure that now lies in ruin; with a growing humanitarian emergency, rising refugees, internally displaced and a growing shortage of critical supplies.
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“With each passing hour, two things are increasingly clear: First – it keeps getting worse. Second – whatever the outcome, this conflict will have no winners, only losers.”
Guterres announced an additional 40 million dollars from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund to ramp up assistance for the most vulnerable in the region but pointed to the growing global dimension to this conflict, particularly on the developing world.
“Even before the conflict, developing countries were struggling to recover from the pandemic – with record inflation, rising interest rates and looming debt burdens. Their ability to respond has been erased by exponential increases in the cost of financing. Now their breadbasket is being bombed. Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30% of the world’s wheat. Ukraine alone provides more than half of the World Food Programme’s wheat supply. Food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. Supply chains are being disrupted. And the costs and delays of transportation of imported goods – when available – are at record levels.”
He warned that these developments were planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe.
“The FAO’s global food prices index is at its highest level ever. 45 African and least developed countries import at least one-third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia – 18 of those countries import at least 50%. This includes countries like Burkina Faso, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. We must do everything possible to avert a hurricane of hunger and a meltdown of the global food system. In addition, we are seeing clear evidence of this war draining resources and attention from other trouble-spots in desperate need.”
He also called the raising of the alert level of Russian nuclear forces a bone-chilling development – adding that the prospect of a nuclear conflict was now back in the realm of possibility.