Armed conflicts alongside the pandemic and the climate crisis drove up food prices beyond the reach of many — even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine — a report said on Tuesday.
The dramatic shortfall in grain and other food shipments because of Moscow's war will make an already grim situation worse, German aid group Welthungerhilfe said.
While the organization's report was for 2021, it also gave an outlook on the effects of the conflict in Ukraine, one of the world's biggest grain exporters. It said the situation had "dramatically worsened" in recent months.
'Wake up call' on climate change
Food prices had already risen 28% in 2021 due to "multiple crises," the report said. The authors said some 811 million people are going hungry worldwide, with the situation particularly extreme in Afghanistan, South Sudan and Yemen.
Madagascar and many countries in East Africa, where the effects of the climate crisis are triggering severe droughts, were also affected.
These are "a wake-up call to finally step up efforts to combat climate change, which is leading to increasingly severe humanitarian emergencies," the annual report said.
"The consequences of the climate crisis are compounded by violent conflicts that fuel hunger. Their number has increased again in recent years. Wars have massive impacts on the food system, such as burning fields, looting stockpiles or restricting crop sales," the report said.
Ukraine war acting as 'accelerant'
Welthungerhilfe also described the "desolate situation of families in Ethiopia" as having been exacerbated by the consequences of the war in Tigray province and beyond.
"Millions of goats and cattle have already died, fields have withered, wells have dried up and water points have been destroyed, ruining the livelihoods of millions of people," Welthungerhilfe President Marlehn Thieme said.
Thieme added that the war in Ukraine was "acting as an accelerant to the crises that already exist, exacerbating hunger and poverty."
Ukraine and Russia together accounted for almost a third of the world's wheat and barley exports before the war, as well as half its sunflower oil. Russia and its ally Belarus, meanwhile, are the second and third largest producers of potash, a key ingredient of fertilizer.
In 2021 alone, Welthungerhilfe said it assisted some 16.6 million people in 36 countries through 526 foreign projects.
Most of the aid, a total of €190.5 million ($190.6 million), went to projects in Africa, followed by €55.6 million in Asia, and €6.3 million in South America.
Edited by: Sean Sinico