Global hunger is surging towards catastrophe in an unprecedented way. The war in Ukraine, on top of the economic impacts of COVID-19, extreme weather due to climate change and instability caused by ongoing conflicts is causing new hunger hotspots to pop up across the globe.
“We didn’t bargain for the crisis in Ukraine,” says Rebecca Richards, Chief of Emergencies and Transitions at the World Food Programme, in a new interview with Michael Messenger, President and CEO of World Vision Canada. “On top of the so-called three C’s of conflict, COVID-19 and climate change, it is making everything exponentially worse,” she says.
Shockwaves of the crisis in Ukraine
With Russia and Ukraine supplying a large portion of the world food production—including 80 per cent of east Africa’s wheat flour—war and sanctions are having a tremendous ripple effect of food insecurity in the world’s most fragile countries.
“(Ukraine and Russia) produce a huge amount of the world’s wheat, but they also produce a significant amount of fertilizer. Many countries depend on this to grow their own food—and this is having a knock-on effect on food prices,” Richards says.
According to the World Food Programme, the three C’s of COVID, conflict and climate change have been reversing decades of decline in global hunger. Even before the Ukraine conflict, there was a record 345 million acutely hungry people marching to the brink of starvation, with 50 million in 45 countries now on the edge of famine.
Already 25,000 people die of hunger every day, one every four seconds. And with the supply of staples, like wheat and sunflower oil shrinking and the cost of food rising, it’s a crisis that continues to get worse.
“It has come down now to us choosing between the starving and the hungry,” Richards says.
How Canadians can help
Canadians can help provide life-saving food and care by supporting organizations working on the ground to address global hunger directly.
The World Food Programme and World Vision are each other’s largest partners, working together in 33 countries to supply food where it is needed most.
“Canadians can come together with a strong and coherent voice to the conversation, you have a strong influence on governments,” Richards says. “We have a tendency to think Somalia and other places are far away. But, with the conflict in Ukraine, it’s not far away, it’s closer than ever. And we all have a responsibility to help.”
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