When it comes to ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, the world is moving backward, according to an annual report issued by the United Nations in mid-July. Last year, 828 million people were facing hunger, an increase of 46 million people from 2020 and 150 million more than in 2019.
“In 2021, a record 193 million people in 53 countries across Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America faced at least this third crisis phase of hunger,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power.
“That number reflected many things – job and income losses and supply chain disruptions from COVID-19, climate shocks, long-simmering conflicts, governments restricting humanitarian access to people in need. But it didn’t account for the latest accelerant of human misery, Vladimir Putin’s unconscionable assault on Ukraine.”
Since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, the Russian military has destroyed Ukrainian farmland, agricultural storage and processing facilities, and blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, leaving 20 million tons of corn and wheat locked in silos and shipyards. “But just as sinister as Putin’s stranglehold on Ukraine’s grain are the less-noticed bans on the export of Russian fertilizers,” said Administrator Power.
“Russia is the world’s largest exporter of fertilizer, but starting in November last year Russia began to restrict some of its supply to global markets, contributing to a near tripling of fertilizer prices over the past year.”
For farmers in Africa, this could result in a 20 percent smaller yield harvest time.
The United States is working to galvanize a response to the emerging crisis. In May, while presiding over the UN Security Council, the United States launched the Roadmap for Global Food Security. This initiative “identifies several calls to action including increasing humanitarian food assistance, keeping markets open, increasing fertilizer production, and investing in food systems resilience,” said U.S. Special Envoy for Global Food Security Cary Fowler.
“In responding to the food crisis, the United States has committed nearly $2.8 billion in emergency food assistance to Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America and the Caribbean since February.”
“The United States will continue to lead with our domestic and global actions to end this unprecedented food crisis,” said Dr. Fowler. “We call on all countries to reaffirm their commitment to multilateral institutions, build faith in the global trading system, and take concrete actions to improve the short-, medium-, and long-term outlook for global food security. The world is looking to us – let’s all do our part.”