Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine is not only causing immeasurable suffering for the people in the region. All over the world, the number of people suffering from hunger is increasing due to the lack of food exports from Ukraine and Russia as well as rising prices.
The war against Ukraine is threatening the food supply for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Rising food prices and a lack of food are hitting people in poorer countries in particular, as well as those who rely on humanitarian assistance, with full force. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is travelling to New York to the United Nations today, where US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has invited some 35 countries, including those that are particularly affected, to a conference aimed at determining what concerted action can be taken to tackle the food crisis.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock issued the following statement prior to her departure:
Russia is not just cynically accepting famines and food crises in the Global South. It is using hunger as a weapon to demand allegiance. We are countering this with our solidarity. We are helping where help is needed and not because it suits our political agenda. In so doing, we are supporting the international order that Russia is brutally attacking. In so doing, we are protecting human life, which Russia is deliberately putting at risk. It is crucial that we, the global community, now act quickly and together, taking concrete steps.
[...] After all, the international community and the G7 will now do what needs to be done: both in the short term by supporting Ukraine and providing humanitarian assistance around the world; but also in the long term by working to counter the climate crisis and droughts and above all to promote sustainable development, also in the poorest corners of our world.
Those already suffering hardship are being hit hardest
Before the war, around a third of the world's wheat exports came from Russia and Ukraine. Some countries, such as Egypt and Lebanon, were even dependent on these two important export countries for over three quarters of their imports. Russia's attacks are hampering the agricultural sector in Ukraine, however. Crops that have already been harvested are stuck in the port of Odesa because Russia is blocking Ukrainian ports and the maritime route across the Black Sea.
Russia, for its part, has decided to restrict food and fertiliser exports in particular, even though the sanctions imposed on the country explicitly do not target the food sector. All of this is driving up prices worldwide and is having a dramatic impact. For example, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) faces about 29 million US dollars in additional costs every month, partly due to increased fuel prices. On the ground, this often means that it has to cut rations in order to be able to feed the growing number of people who need help. Germany is the second-largest donor to the WFP and will continue to provide support.
Tackling the food crisis together
Global crises can only be solved globally. This is why Germany, in its capacity as the holder of the G7 Presidency and one of six "champions", is supporting the UN Secretary-General in his Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance (GCRC). The GCRC develops global solutions to food, energy and financial security issues. Joint solutions are also being coordinated in the G7. The G7 Foreign Ministers have reached agreement on voluntary commitments with regard to the food crisis. The G7 Development Ministers will launch the alliance for global food security, which takes its lead from UN initiatives, tomorrow (19 May).
How does humanitarian food assistance work?
The objective of humanitarian food assistance is to prevent illness and death caused by malnutrition and to protect livelihoods in crisis situations. Measures include, for example, food distribution, cash or voucher systems and direct food aid, such as supplementary feeding programmes and school meal programmes. In addition, material support and technical advice are provided to assist the rapid resumption of agricultural production through the distribution of seeds and simple tools, as well as agricultural training.
Against the backdrop of steadily rising numbers of people affected by acute food insecurity worldwide, humanitarian food assistance is one of the German Government's humanitarian priorities. Among other things, the focus is on the affected regions in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.