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UN chief warns of risk of 'multiple famines' in 2022

June 24, 2022

The world is facing an "unprecedented global hunger crisis," UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned, noting that the Russian attack on Ukraine exacerbated pre-existing problems.

Women waiting for food in South Sudan
Guterres warned that no country would be immune from the effectsImage: Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP

The head of the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said on Friday the world is facing a food security "catastrophe" as shortages around the globe increase.

He was speaking in a video message addressing leading lawmakers from some of the world's richest countries who had gathered in Berlin for a conference on food security ahead of the G7 summit in the southern German state of Bavaria.

"There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022," Guterres said, adding that "2023 could be even worse."

According to UN estimates, millions of people across some 34 countries are on the brink of famine.

He also said that the UN was working on a plan to allow Ukraine to export its huge grain stocks to the global market, including via its Black Sea ports which have so far been under blockade from Russian ships.

Food insecurity will affect the whole world

The UN chief warned that farmers in Asia, Africa and the Americas will be hit by the rising costs of fertilizer and fuel.

But he also warned that the long-term effects of such a situation would leave no part of the planet untouched.

"This year's food access issues could become next year's global food shortage,'' Guterres said. "No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe."

He called for the release of Ukrainian agricultural products onto the world market to ease shortages as well as debt relief for poorer countries. Russia and Ukraine together produce around 29% of the world's wheat exports.

EU addresses food fallout from Ukraine war

He said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had made pre-existing problems worse, leading to the point that "we face an unprecedented global hunger crisis."

"The war in Ukraine has compounded problems that have been brewing for years: climate disruption; the COVID-19 pandemic; the deeply unequal recovery," he said.

Baerbock says western sanctions are not to blame

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was hosting the Berlin meeting, disputed claims from Moscow that the western sanctions against Russia are to blame for the food security crisis.

She said such an argument was "completely untenable" since Russian exports of wheat in May and June this year were at the same level as in 2021.

Baerbock echoed Guterres in pointing to the many causes of the food crisis, but said that "it was Russia's war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami."

ab/dj (AP, Reuters)

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