The World Food Program warns that the fighting in Ukraine could cause the world’s worst food crisis since World War II. The country known as “Europe’s breadbasket” could run out of grain, leaving millions around the world at risk of food insecurity.
Aid missions hampered by lack of access
The WFP described it as a “disaster on top of a disaster” and said it never imagined it was possible. The organization estimates that 45% of Ukraine’s population faces food shortages, with one in five people now having to reduce the amount and frequency of their meals.
“More and more people are struggling to find food, especially in hard-to-reach areas that have been the scene of intense fighting,” said WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri.
WFP provided support, including ready-to-eat food rations, to more than one million war-affected people. But Phiri says the logistics of delivering food across the war-torn country presents a challenge.
“We are struggling to reach Mariupol and we are extremely concerned that people who have been trapped by the conflict there are now struggling to find food,” he says.
On March 12, the International Committee of the Red Cross tweeted a message from its staff in Mariupol. He described a desperate situation, without electricity, water or gas. Staff said they had enough food “for a few days” and described their situation as “relatively good”.
“It is very difficult for the United Nations to work safely, especially in besieged cities,” says Phiri. “We are talking to a number of partners, including NGOs and civil society. We are even engaging churches to find ways to fill the gaps.”
Global crisis in sight
The WFP says the war has already disrupted harvests, triggering a wave of “collateral hunger” elsewhere in the world. Russia and Ukraine are responsible for about 30% of the world wheat trade. Even Ukraine alone produced food for 400 million people.
“What is clear is that a month of fighting has resulted in massive destruction, devastation and damage in Ukraine,” says Phiri. “The next harvest season is at stake. Ukrainian farmers were supposed to plant now.”
Appeal for international support
The WFP warns that aid organizations could end up having the price of buying aid taken away from them, as disruptions in production and exports drive up food prices globally.
Phiri says international support is crucial for these operations to continue in the months to come.
“We call them [the international community] to dig deeper,” he says. “We were able to start, we were able to launch activities, but we will need resources to sustain these activities, as well as to scale up, in the weeks and months to come. to reach more people in need.”