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Open letter: Impact of Ukraine war is increasing the threat of global famine

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Action Against Hunger UK
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The CEOs of 15 international aid organisations, including Islamic Relief, are warning that the conflict in Ukraine is causing "suffering beyond its borders, including through the twin impact of rising food and energy costs". The group has written an open letter to the UK Government, urging it to play a leading role as rising prices create increasing global hunger and malnutrition:

25 April, 2022

The conflict in Ukraine is a grave humanitarian disaster, and the worst in Europe since 1945. We are moved by the extraordinary generosity and solidarity shown by the British public to people whose lives have been torn apart. The commitment of £400m in economic and humanitarian aid from the UK Government to the people of Ukraine is vital.

International aid charities are now moving at speed and scale to support local humanitarian responders to provide aid, both to people inside Ukraine's borders and among those forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries. We must now gather our strength for the long haul as the situation looks likely to get worse before it gets better.

In this moment of unprecedented support to Ukraine, we must also recognise that the conflict is causing suffering far beyond its borders, including through the twin impact of rising food and energy costs. This is exacerbating pre-existing hunger crises for many countries, including in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, and the Middle East, which will threaten political stability. If we don't act fast the threat of famine will increase for millions of people.

The UK must play a leading role in responding both to the urgent needs of Ukraine and of those people around the world who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. The global hunger crisis is not temporary, and it is not a surprise. After decades of progress in reducing hunger, it has almost doubled since 2019.

Globally, 45 million people were already at risk of famine, with women and girls making up 60% of food insecure people worldwide. The UN projects that a further 8-20 million people will now be left hungry from the knock-on effects of soaring prices and broken supply chains for grains, cooking oil, fertiliser and fuel. Girls and women face particular risks, as they often eat less and last when food is scarce. Even before the crisis, the UN's World Food Programme reported that 3 million children a year died from malnutrition -- one every 10 seconds.

In 2017, the UK's action helped to avert the worst of a hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. Similarly effective and quick action is needed again now. The UK Government, working with local and international partners, cannot wait until famine strikes. We can and must act urgently to prevent a food crisis. We call on the UK Government to:

  • Show leadership among the G7 and urgently take concrete action to uphold G7 Famine Compact and Nutrition for Growth Commitments, including new funding to prevent famine in countries already on the brink.
  • Reverse cuts to international aid by returning to a commitment of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI). Funding for Ukraine must be in addition to all existing UK aid commitments, not money diverted away from other crises.
  • Support efforts to keep food affordable and stabilise prices.
  • Prioritise World Bank capacity for crisis preparedness and a response that respects human dignity and environmental sustainability.

We should see hope in the generous and welcoming public response to people affected by the conflict in Ukraine. The UK Government must match the spirit of the British public's response to the DEC Ukraine appeal and look beyond the borders of Europe. That is the litmus test of 'Global Britain.'

Jean-Michel Grand, Action Against Hunger UK
Frances Longley, ActionAid UK
Chris Roles, Age International
Mike Adamson, British Red Cross
Christine Allen, CAFOD
Laurie Lee, CARE International UK
Patrick Watt, Christian Aid
Danny Harvey, Concern Worldwide
Laura Kyrke Smith, International Rescue Committee
Waseem Ahmad, Islamic Relief Worldwide
Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB
Rose Caldwell, Plan International UK
Gwen Hines, Save the Children UK
Nigel Harris, Tearfund
Mark Sheard, World Vision UK