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  • Writer's pictureHeavenly Path News Team

"the global food crisis: no time to lose"

The situation in Ukraine has exacerbated a desperate situation. Famine is not inevitable – but action must be swift.

A convoy of trucks, part of the World Food Programme, on their way to Tigray, Ethiopia. ‘In parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan, sections of the population are enduring catastrophic levels of hunger.’ Photograph: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

Hunger is stalking the world.

Seven years ago, the United Nations vowed to eradicate it by 2030. Yet the number of people affected globally reached 828 million last year, and an unprecedented number – 345 million – are currently experiencing acute food insecurity, the UN has warned.

Covid-19 and the climate emergency had seen that tally rise from 135 million people before the pandemic to 276 million by early this year, reflecting a 55% increase in the Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index since May 2020. “We thought it couldn’t get any worse,” said David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme. But the war in Ukraine has exacerbated increases in freight and fertiliser costs due to rising fuel prices, and has blocked ports; Ukraine and Russia previously accounted for almost a third of global wheat exports – though the US alleges that Moscow is trying to sell stolen grain in Africa. And many middle-income countries have already spent large parts of their reserves due to the pandemic.

Even in wealthier countries, the cost of living crisis is seeing more parents going hungry to feed their children. In low-income countries, where people already spend two-fifths of their income on food, rising prices are truly deadly. Around 2.3 billion people face moderate or severe difficulty obtaining enough to eat, and in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan, sections of the population are enduring catastrophic levels of hunger. The repercussions – in social unrest and political violence – are already being seen in some countries.

Though G7 leaders pledged an extra $4.5bn to tackle the food crisis last month, that was just a fraction of the $28.5bn that experts say is needed (and the UK, of course, has cut aid spending overall). Food aid can bring a wealth of problems; the UN Development Programme has recommended cash transfers in many cases. Beyond that, a substantive shift in global agricultural policies is needed. Countries should redirect domestic support towards sustainable farming and nutritious foods, reducing their reliance on imports. Others, notably the US, should prioritise grain for human consumption over biofuels. Above all, action must be taken urgently. It may already be too late to save some lives. We must prevent more being lost.

I write from Ukraine, where I've spent much of the past six months, reporting on the build-up to the conflict and the grim reality of war. It has been the most intense time of my 30-year career. In December I visited the trenches outside Donetsk with the Ukrainian army; in January I went to Mariupol and drove along the coast to Crimea; on 24 February I was with other colleagues in the Ukrainian capital as the first Russian bombs fell. This is the biggest war in Europe since 1945. It is, for Ukrainians, an existential struggle against a new but familiar Russian imperialism. Our team of reporters and editors intend to cover this war for as long as it lasts, however expensive that may prove to be. We are committed to telling the human stories of those caught up in war, as well as the international dimension. But we can't do this without the support of Guardian readers. It is your passion, engagement and financial contributions which underpin our independent journalism and make it possible for us to report from places like Ukraine. If you are able to help with a monthly or single contribution it will boost our resources and enhance our ability to report the truth about what is happening in this terrible conflict.

Thank you.

Luke Harding Foreign correspondent


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