United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has raised concern over what he described as a hunger hurricane resulting from the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
“We must do everything possible to avert a hurricane of hunger and a meltdown of the global food system,” Guterres told correspondents outside the Security Council chamber in New York on Monday.
He observed that while war rains over Ukraine, a sword of Damocles hangs over the global economy – especially in the developing world.
According to Guterres, even before the conflict, developing countries were struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – with record inflation, rising interest rates, and looming debt burdens.
He expressed that exponential increases in the cost of financing had erased their ability to respond.
“Now their breadbasket is being bombed,” the UN boss lamented.
In this regard, he noted that Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world’s wheat.
In addition, Guterres said Ukraine alone provides more than half of the World Food Programme’s wheat supply.
He stated that food, fuel, and fertiliser prices are skyrocketing, supply chains are being disrupted and the costs and delays of transportation of imported goods – when available – are at record levels hitting the poorest countries hardest.
Guterres indicated that the situation was planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe.
He also stated that grain prices have already exceeded those at the start of the Arab Spring and the food riots of 2007-2008, while the FAO’s global food prices index is at its highest level ever.
Against that backdrop, the UN Secretary-General announced the establishment of a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy, and Finance in the UN Secretariat.
He said he had asked the Deputy Secretary-General to lead an inter-agency steering committee with partners to oversee the effort.
“In the coming days, we will be consulting with Member States willing to champion the actions needed to carry forward the global emergency response that will be required for these looming crises,” the UN Chief disclosed.
And he warned that further escalation of the war, whether by accident or design, threatens all of humanity.