People's Stories Livelihood

It’s time we all come together to address the global food crisis
by Abdulla Shahid, Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio
UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS)
Aug. 2022
As parents and global citizens, we are very worried about the cost-of-living crisis that the world is facing – the worst in over a generation. The interlinked shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and conflicts have thrown the global food, agricultural, financial and energy systems and markets into turmoil.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has added fuel to the already precarious poverty, hunger and malnutrition situation. Besides its tragic humanitarian toll, the war is extending human suffering to all corners of the world through widespread disruptions to the planting, harvesting, transport, and export of major agricultural commodities from the Black Sea region.
The war has also disrupted prices of and access to inputs like fuels and fertilisers. And in this context, we welcome the grain trade deal which offers a lifeline to millions, and strongly urge all parties to honour the agreement.
Even before the war, hunger and malnutrition were on the rise globally, with an unacceptable 823 million people going hungry in 2021 according to the recent edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report by five United Nations agencies, including FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO.
That said, the war has pushed an additional 50 million people into severe hunger in 2022 across the world. With food prices continuing to rise, another 19 million more people are expected to face chronic undernourishment globally in 2023.
These are not mere statistics but real people around the world, from Cairo to Caracas, Dhaka to Donetsk, who are going to bed hungry.
While everyone is squeezed by food price inflation, the poor are the hardest hit, especially in developing countries, where food accounts for half of a typical family’s budget.
They are finding it more and more difficult to afford the food needed to nourish their families, and are being forced to reduce food intake, sell their productive assets, or take their children out of school.
As a result, we are seeing years of progress in reducing hunger and poverty reversed, undermining efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 while exacerbating inequalities. The World Bank warns that the war in Ukraine is likely to plunge up to 95 million people into extreme poverty, making 2022 the second-worst year ever for poverty alleviation, behind only 2020.
The growing number of export bans and trade restrictions on wheat and other commodities are making the crisis worse. These actions are counterproductive and they must be reversed.
We note that representatives from more than 100 World Trade Organization member countries have recently taken action to step up their efforts to facilitate trade in food and agricultural products and reaffirmed the importance of refraining from export restrictions. In addition, the Group of Seven, which includes major food exporters like Canada, the European Union, and the United States, has pledged to avoid export bans and other trade-restrictive measures.
Food insecurity and malnutrition will remain a key challenge given the intensification of its drivers, including conflict, climate variability and extremes, and economic slowdowns, combined with the high cost of nutritious foods and growing inequalities.
In challenging circumstances like this, we are all called to come together, united in common responsibility, to address and solve the problem. As the UN secretary-general says: “It takes a world to fix the world.” For us, inaction is not an option.
We call on the international community to urgently support affected people, communities and countries through coordinated action. To succeed, all of us must work together to ensure our actions to address the crisis converge. Millions of lives are at stake and the world’s most vulnerable do not have the luxury of time for duplication or wastage of efforts.
Thankfully, we know what we need to do, together, to raise our ambition and deliver concrete actions.
First, stepping up humanitarian response for those already in need. However, addressing this crisis and the vicious cycles it creates calls for an approach that looks at the emergency today with our focus firmly fixed on strengthening livelihoods against future shocks.
Second, urgent stabilisation of markets, debt and commodity prices to immediately restore the availability, accessibility and affordability of food to enable all people everywhere to realise their right to food. We urge countries to continue releasing strategic food stockpiles and inputs into markets, minimise hoarding and other speculative behaviour, and avoid unnecessary trade restrictions.
Third, encourage increased local production by family farmers, small-scale food producers, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and cooperatives, as well as increased consumption of diverse food varieties; diversify sources of imported foods; and reduce food loss and food waste.
Fourth, restore fertiliser availability ensuring sustained and affordable access by smallholders and family farmers. This should go hand-in-hand with transformation to sustainable and inclusive production, including a commitment to increased efficiency in the use of energy and fertilisers, unleashing the potential of agroecology and other innovative approaches to sustainable agriculture.
Fifth, reinforce social protection systems needed to prevent vulnerable communities from sliding into poverty and furthering malnutrition. Examples of such measures include the time-proven school meals programme to address the impact of this crisis on children’s malnutrition, or cash transfer programmes to boost the purchasing power of poor households.
Sixth, countries need financial resources and the fiscal space to support strong national responses to the crisis. We need to fund existing international financing mechanisms; with the IMF and the international financial institutions (IFIs) playing an essential role. We urge countries that were proposing cuts to Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments to reconsider their decisions and instead respect the target to direct 0.7 percent of their national incomes to ODA.
Lessons from the 2007-08 food crisis, as well as from the COVID-19 pandemic more recently, show that meaningful and principled policy response should support country-led coping strategies that involve all of society: from farmers to consumers, civil society, and businesses, especially those most affected by the food crisis.
The UN secretary-general’s Global Crisis Response Group is providing joint analysis and policy recommendations from the whole of the UN System. We must ensure that our responses are consistent with and guided by the SDGs, which are the comprehensive blueprint for sustainable development.
Importantly, we must remain committed to sustainable transformation of our food systems. Only then will we deliver sufficient, safe, affordable, and nutritious food for all people, provide employment and income particularly in rural areas, while at the same time fully respecting planetary boundaries.
The imperative to act on the transformation of our food systems is greater now than ever. We must do everything possible to end this food crisis and forestall future ones. We have the tools and resources to make it happen. It is time to act together to ensure no one is left behind.
* Abdulla Shahid is the 76th President of the United Nations General Assembly; Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio is the Chairperson of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), extract published by Al Jazeera.

Visit the related web page

UN unveils plan to allow exports of Ukrainian and Russian grain exports to ease world hunger
by United Nations News, agencies
1 Aug. 2022
The UN has welcomed the departure of the first ship from the Ukrainian port of Odesa, carrying grain under the landmark deal signed by Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye, overseen by the UN.
The Razoni, carrying a cargo of 26,527 tonnes of corn, is the first cargo ship to leave a Ukrainian Black Sea port since 26 February, just a few days after the Russian invasion began. It is bound for the Mediterranean port of Tripoli, in Lebanon.
In a statement issued by his Spokesperson, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that ensuring “existing grain and foodstuffs can move to global markets is a humanitarian imperative.”
“The Secretary-General hopes that this will be the first of many commercial ships moving in accordance with the Initiative signed, and that this will bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts.”
Mr. Guterres said the ship was loaded with two commodities in short supply, "corn, and hope."
"People on the verge of famine need these agreements to work, in order to survive. Countries on the verge of bankruptcy need these agreements to work, in order to keep their economies alive."
While the "tragic war continues to rage", said the UN chief, the UN would continue working every day, "to bring relief to the people of Ukraine, and to those suffering the effects of the conflict around the world."
He said the war "must end, and peace must be established, in line with the Charter of the United Nations and international law. "I hope today’s news can be a step towards that goal, for the people of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and for the world."
According to news reports, Turkish authorities made clear that further shipments of grain were planned in the coming weeks, and many more journeys will have to be safely and successfully undertaken for the much-needed food supplies to make a difference.
Ukraine and Russia account for nearly a third of global wheat imports, with the two countries supplying more than 45 million tonnes annually, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
* 5/8/2022: Three more ships carrying grain have departed from Ukrainian ports under a deal brokered by the United Nations:
22 July 2022
An agreement on the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea amid the ongoing war is “a beacon of hope” in a world that desperately needs it, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the signing ceremony in Istanbul, Türkiye, on Friday.
The UN plan, which also paves the way for Ukrainian and Russian food and fertilizers to reach global markets, is hoped to stabilize spiralling food prices worldwide and help to stave off famine, affecting millions.
Russian and Ukrainian Ministers signed the Black Sea Grain Initiative, with the UN Secretary-General and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in attendance.
“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea,” the UN chief said, speaking prior to the signing. “A beacon of hope – a beacon of possibility – a beacon of relief -- in a world that needs it more than ever.”
Mr. Guterres thanked President Erdogan and his government for facilitating the talks that led to the deal. He commended the Russian and Ukrainian representatives for putting aside their differences in the common interests of humanity.
“The question has not been what is good for one side or the other,” he said. “The focus has been on what matters most for the people of our world. And let there be no doubt – this is an agreement for the world.”
Ukraine is among the world’s leading grain exporters, supplying more than 45 million tonnes annually to the global market, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The Russian invasion, which began on 24 February, has sparked record food and fuel prices, as well as supply chain issues, with mountains of grain stocks stuck in silos.
In addition to helping stabilize global food prices, the agreement it is hoped “will bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine,” said Mr. Guterres.
“Since the war started, I have been highlighting that there is no solution to the global food crisis without ensuring full global access to Ukraine’s food products and Russian food and fertilizer.”
A long road
The initiative specifically allows for significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea – Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.
The Secretary-General also announced the establishment of a Joint Coordination Centre to monitor implementation. It will be hosted in Istanbul and will include representatives from Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye.
Inspection teams will monitor the onloading of grain at the three ports. Ukrainian pilot vessels will guide the ships through the Black Sea, which is mined, after which they will head out through the Bosphorus Strait along an agreed corridor. Ships going into the ports also will be inspected.
Mr. Guterres acknowledged “the long road” and weeks of around-the clock negotiations leading up to the landmark agreement.
In April, the Secretary-General met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to propose a plan. The UN has been "working every day since", he said.
Two UN Task Forces were established in parallel on the talks - one focused on the shipment of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, which was led by UN humanitarian affairs chief Martin Griffiths, and the other on facilitating access of Russian food and fertilizers, headed by Rebecca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the UN trade and development body, UNCTAD. Mr. Guterres pledged the UN’s full commitment to the agreement, and urged all sides to do the same.
“This is an unprecedented agreement between two parties engaged in bloody conflict. But that conflict continues,” he said, noting that people are dying every day as the fighting rages.
“The beacon of hope on the Black Sea is shining today, thanks to the collective efforts of so many. In these trying and turbulent times for the region and our globe, let that beacon guide the way towards easing human suffering and securing peace.”
23 July 2022
UN Secretary-General condemns missile strikes in Ukranian Black Sea port of Odesa.
The UN Secretary-General 'unequivocally' condemned the reported strikes this Saturday in the port of Odesa. The attack took place less than 24 hours after the signing of the Black Sea agreements on the export of grain from Ukrainian ports.
"Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the global stage to ensure the safe movement of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets. These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is imperative", António Guterres said.
In Instabul, Russian and Ukrainian Ministers signed on Friday the Black Sea Grain Initiative to resume Ukranian grain exports via the Black Sea amid the ongoing war. The agreement is meant to secure the transit of millions of tons of grain.
The Russian invasion, which began on 24 February, has sparked record food and fuel prices, as well as supply chain issues, with mountains of grain stocks stuck in silos.
According to media reports, at least six explosions were heard in Odesa on Saturday morning, and so far is unclear what the strikes were targeting and whether any grain infrastructure was hit.
July 2022
Leaders at humanitarian groups cautiously welcomed the agreement.
"The lifting of these blockades will go some way in easing the extreme hunger that over 18 million people in East Africa are facing, with three million already facing catastrophic hunger conditions," said Shashwat Saraf, the International Rescue Committee's East Africa emergency director.
"The next and significant step must be fully funding the humanitarian response in the region, to stave off the worst impacts of the drought and prevent a catastrophic, unprecedented famine from fully engulfing the region by the end of the summer," Saraf added.
Tjada D'Oyen McKenna, CEO of Mercy Corps, said that if the deal is respected, it "will help ease grain shortages, but let's be clear—this will not end or significantly alter the trajectory of the worsening global food crisis."
"Unblocking Ukraine's ports will not reverse the damage war has wreaked on crops, agricultural land, and agricultural transit routes in the country; it will not significantly change the price or availability of fuel, fertilizer, and other staple goods that are now beyond the reach of many, particularly in lower-income countries; and it will certainly not help the majority of the 50 million people around the world inching closer to famine stave off starvation," she said.
Highlighting conditions from Afghanistan, Colombia, and Guatemala to Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, McKenna argued that "we must recognize that our global food systems were already failing and record numbers of people were edging toward poverty and hunger due to the economic pummeling of the Covid-19 crisis and the impacts of climate change."
Along with providing emergency assistance, she said, "urgent action must be taken to strengthen agricultural food systems: Scale climate-resilient agricultural production and boost support for local agriculture by providing smallholder farmers the information, financial, and regulatory support they need to help their communities and countries reduce reliance on imports."
May 2022
WFP appeals for reopening of Ukraine ports so food can reach people facing acute hunger
The war in Ukraine and the disruption of food exports have caused a surge in global food prices, with devastating consequences for poor countries. Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest producers of food, has some 20 million tons of grain in storage available for export, but Russia’s current blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports has meant that it can not reach food markets.
The U.N.’s World Food Program has warned that the loss of Ukraine’s grain exports at a time when 45 million people in 38 countries are grappling with extreme hunger may trigger famine in a number of countries.
Whilst the conflict has brought immense suffering to the Ukraine people and heightened concerns for food insecurity in the country and its future abilities to maintain export volumes, the current global circumstance necessitates an immediate opening of ports to facilitate the export of desperately needed food to some of the world's most vulnerable peoples.
Undoubtedly political tensions are high and there are many pressing humanitarian, human rights and livelihood challenges to address in the conflict, most notably an immediate end to the fighting, but it is not beyond agreement to realise an opening of the ports and a resumption of exports facilitated by the World Food Program and other relevant UN agencies.
Whilst there are disturbing reports from the FAO, from the conflict zone in Ukraine of grain stores being stolen by Russian troops and grain complexes and storage facilities being destroyed in the conflict, such is the overwhelming global humanitarian need that immediate negiotations must be undertaken to commence shipping of urgently needed grains.
Such is the desperate need for countries dependent on Ukraine for food imports that the European Union is proposing complex land and rail freight options to facilitate accessing Ukraine's desperately needed grain supplies.
This week India the world's second biggest wheat exporter suspended exports to the end of the year, due to weather impacts on its crops and the drawdown on its grain reserves due to recent covid support programs. There are concerns surrounding the size of the shortfall of the world's biggest wheat exporter China, after unseasonal weather impacts on this years harvest.
Over 20 countries have imposed export restrictions on grain exports as local price rises provoke alarm from national governments. Food market speculators are also impacting global prices and need to be immediately constrained.
The UN Security Council and the G7 have both recently sounded alarm over the current food insecurity situation on the most vulnerable countries, in response to the impacts of rising food, fuel and fertilizer costs.
Climate change continues to impact a number of countries harvests, with recent heat waves in India and Pakistan undermining conditions. In Europe, growing conditions in France and Spain have been undermined. In countries in humanitarian crisis, drought conditions in Afghanistan and a number of African countries have severely undermined harvests and livelihoods.
Even at a time of such heightened tensions and suffering for many, it must be possible to realise an agreed mechanism between Russia and the WFP to facilitate the immediate reopening of Black Sea ports – including Odesa – so that critical food from Ukraine can reach people facing acute food insecurity and the immediate threat of famine.
6 May 2022
War in Ukraine: WFP calls for ports to reopen as world faces deepening hunger crisis - Lifesaving food remains trapped while a record number of families struggle to survive.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for the immediate reopening of Black Sea ports – including Odesa – so that critical food from Ukraine can reach people facing acute food insecurity in countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen where millions are on the brink.
“We’re running out of time and the impact of inaction will be felt around the world for years to come,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the the World Food Programme.
Pointing to the rising costs of food, fuel and shipping, Beasley stressed no one is immune to the consequences of the ongoing war. Today, as record numbers of people wonder what they will eat tomorrow, harvests from Ukrainian farms are failing to be shipped to the destinations where they are needed most.
“Right now, Ukraine’s grain silos are full. At the same time, 44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation,” said Beasley.
Before the war, most of the food produced by Ukraine – enough to feed 400 million people – was exported through the country’s seven Black Sea ports. In the eight months before the conflict began, close to 51 million metric tons of grain passed through them, according to WFP.
“We have to open up these ports so that food can move in and out of Ukraine,” said Beasley. “The world demands it because hundreds of millions of people globally depend on food that comes through these ports.”
Global food prices have risen sharply since the onset of the crisis. This will affect local food prices and people in the most vulnerable locations, on extremely tight budgets, are particularly at risk. In the month after the conflict started, export prices for wheat and maize rose by 22 percent and 20 percent respectively, on top of steep rises in 2021.
It comes in a year forecast, even before the war, to be one of catastrophic hunger with needs outpacing resources to help people going hungry across the world.
In West Africa, acute hunger is already at a ten-year high as the region struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – with costs already high, many will suffer as prices rise even further.
The ripple effect of the Ukraine crisis will worsen the food insecurity situation in East Africa, too – Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan are amongst those likely to be hardest hit due to their reliance on imports from Russia and Ukraine.
Food and oil price hikes are driving up WFP’s monthly operational costs by up to US$71 million a month, effectively reducing its ability to respond to hunger crises around the world.
“The war in Ukraine is a catastrophe on top of catastrophe,” said Beasley. “I urge all parties involved to allow this food to get out of Ukraine to where it’s desperately needed so we can avert the looming threat of famine.”
May 2022
In some of the world’s poorest communities the cost of food, fuel and fertiliser is soaring, with families spending double, triple and in some cases nearly four times what they were paying before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, new analysis by ActionAid finds.
While the average cost of wheat products like pasta has increased by more than 50% in local markets and communities in the 13 countries surveyed, families in Lebanon, which is heavily dependent on imports from Ukraine and Russia, are spending as much as 275% more than they were at the end of February.
In the Horn of Africa, where 20 million people are already facing severe hunger due to prolonged drought, communities in Somaliland are now spending more than double (163%) as much on a loaf of bread. Average prices for cooking oil have increased by over 60%, but in some areas of Somaliland costs are up by as much as 260%.
It comes as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) last month found world food commodity prices reached their highest ever levels.
ActionAid’s analysis finds that, at local community level, food and fuel price hikes are far outstripping already record-breaking rises globally*, suggesting the Ukraine war has exacerbated ongoing food and fuel price challenges in communities most impacted by the climate crisis, humanitarian emergencies, and political and economic turmoil.
The survey of market traders and community members in 13 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, finds that the cost of essentials have increased by:
Fertiliser up by an average of 83% (rising by up to 196% in the Elfeta area of Ethiopia). Cooking oil up by an average of 64% (rising by up to 260% in the villages of Googeysa and Xidhinta in Somaliland). Cooking gas up by an average of 60% (rising by up to 175% in one area of Zimbabwe). Petrol up by an average of 63% (rising by up to 253% in Myanmar).
Pasta up by an average of 53% (rising by up to 275% in the Baalbek area of Bekaa district, Lebanon). Bread up by an average of 48% (rising by up to 163% in villages of Ceel-Giniseed and Teysa, Somaliland)
Teresa Anderson, ActionAid International’s global climate justice lead, says:
“The conflict in Ukraine has created a perfect storm of skyrocketing prices for food, fuel and fertiliser, disproportionately affecting local communities who barely have any belt left to tighten. Our survey found that in some places, prices are now double, triple or almost four times as much compared to before the war started.
The world is now on track for a global food crisis that looks set to be far more deadly, devastating and prolonged than that of 2007-08. Governments and international institutions must take urgent action to avert catastrophic hunger on an unprecedented scale.”
Just over two months on from the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, families in existing hunger hotspots around the world are already feeling the burden of skyrocketing prices.
Mothers reported having to take their children out of school to be able to afford to buy food and shared their heartache at only being able to provide one meal a day for their families. In Somaliland, one woman spoke of giving her children black tea to stave off hunger pangs.
Other people said they have become sick from drinking unclean water from ponds, and many families are incurring debt to cover essential expenses such as medical costs, seeds and fertiliser.
As well as the soaring cost of wheat products and cooking oil, the cost of fuel and fertilisers is also rising at an alarming rate.
ActionAid’s survey shows the cost of petrol and cooking gas has gone up by around 60% on average. However, one community in Myanmar reports that the cost of petrol has soared by 253%, and families in Zimbabwe report petrol increases as high as 227% and cooking gas increases up by 175%.
Chemical fertilisers, a key component of industrialised farming systems, require large amounts of fossil fuels for their production. The survey shows that the average price of fertiliser has already increased by more than 80%. However, in one district of Ethiopia prices have gone up by as much as 196%. With the planting season about to begin or already underway in many parts of the world, crop yields and farming incomes are set to be hit hard in 2022.
Joy Mabenge, Country Director of ActionAid Zimbabwe, says: “The price increases since the start of the Ukraine war are further eroding living standards and are severely affecting the poorest and most marginalised.”
Many of the countries where the survey was carried out rely heavily on imported goods, making them hugely susceptible to changes in global markets.
In Somaliland, Maryan Muhumed Hudhun, a smallholder farmer and mother of six, told ActionAid: “We don't produce anything in Somaliland. Whatever food we consume here is made outside, such as rice, pasta or oil. “Whatever impacts the world will impact us as well. I am worried about not being able to get water, or food even.”
Sifa, a 40-year-old mother of seven from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said: “My family and I no longer get enough food. We have had to reduce the quantity and quality of our meals. The low production [of food] has pushed us to become beggars.”
ActionAid is calling for the immediate roll out of social protection measures, which target women and girls, including cash transfers, food support and free school meals, to assist families most at risk.
To avert dramatic global yield losses later this year from a worldwide lack of fertilisers, governments must rapidly train farmers on agroecological approaches. Agroecology means adopting farming practices that work with nature, such as using local manure to build soil fertility and reduce reliance on chemical fertilisers.
In the longer term, governments dependent on food imports must also invest in national and regional food reserves to act as buffers and reduce countries’ vulnerability to food shortages and price rises. The global fallout from the Ukraine crisis shows why a just transition to renewable energy and agroecological farming practices is more urgent than ever, to address climate change and protect communities from shocks to world food and energy markets.

Visit the related web page

View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook