The head of the United Nations warned on Friday that the world faces a “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.
- Antonio Guterres says the war in Ukraine, climate change, the pandemic and inequality produced a “global hunger crisis”
- He warns that there’s real risk of multiple famines this year and “2023 could be even worse”
- Mr Guterres says UN negotiators are working on a deal that will allow Ukraine to export food
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine had added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.
“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin.
Mr Guterres said that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas would take a hit as farmers around the world struggled to cope with rising fertiliser and energy prices.
“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said.
“No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”
Mr Guterres said UN negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertiliser to world markets without restrictions.
He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilise global food markets.
Moscow’s claims rejected
The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”
Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Ms Baerbock said.
She echoed Mr Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.
“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Ms Baerbock said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia had no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.