The head of the United Nations warned on Friday that the world was facing a “disaster” due to growing food shortages around the world.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to disruptions from climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” that is already affecting hundreds of millions of people.
“There is a real danger of declaring multiple famines in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries meeting in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”
Guterres noted that crops across Asia, Africa and the Americas will be affected as farmers around the world struggle to deal with rising fertilizer and energy prices.
“The issues of access to food this year may become the global food shortage next year,” he said. “No country will be immune from the social and economic repercussions of such a disaster.”
Guterres said UN negotiators are working on an agreement that would enable Ukraine to export food, including through the Black Sea, and allow Russia to bring food and fertilizer to global markets without restrictions.
He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat, and called on the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.
The host of the Berlin meeting, German Foreign Minister Annallina Barbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for the food shortage was “completely untenable”.
Barbuk said that Russia exported the same amount of wheat in May and June of this year as in the same months of 2021.
Guterres’ comments were echoed that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.
“But it was the Russian offensive war on Ukraine that turned the tide into a tsunami,” Barbock said.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insisted that Russia had no excuse to block vital goods from global markets.
“The sanctions that we have imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exclude food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizer, exempt insurance companies, and exempt shipments,” he said.
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