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A food crisis putting nearly 50 million more people around the world at risk of starvation has no quick fixes, officials from the World Food Program and its U.S. counterpart told Fox News.
Ukraine’s war is fueling food shortages, but supply chain complications stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, rising costs and climate issues have deepened the crisis, officials say.
“We have more threats to food insecurity than I think we’ve ever had in humanity,” Barron Segar, CEO of Food Program USA, told Fox News. “Today, 48.9 million people are on the brink of starvation.”
“We know that people are dying today because there is a lack of food,” he continued.
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Russia and Ukraine, considered together the breadbasket of the world, accounted for nearly 30% of global wheat exports before the war, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. But Russia attacked the ports of Ukraine and formed a blockade against her in the Black Sea.
“The war in Ukraine has destabilized the world when it comes to food,” Segar said. “It’s not just a war against Ukraine. It’s a war against humanity.”
“Many countries are suffering, and millions of people are going to suffer even more because of this war,” he added.
The World Food Program, an arm of the United Nations, serves about 140 million people, according to Segar. But he said the group needed to reduce food rations.
“Imagine telling your child that they’re going to go from two meals a day to one,” Segar told Fox News.
Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, food shortages were looming.
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“The global economy entering this situation was already a bit stressed due to COVID and the impact of the past two years on transportation and production,” the World Food Program’s deputy emergency director told Fox News. , Brian Lander.
The number of severely food insecure people has doubled to 135 million since the start of the pandemic, according to the World Food Programme. More than 800 million people face chronic hunger.
“In the pre-COVID years, we talked about starvation, but it was relatively rare,” Segar said. “Today we have this domino effect of climate and COVID and cost and conflict, and they’re all fighting against each other.”
“COVID has really turned the supply chain upside down,” Segar added. “It has had dramatic consequences for communities that are really hungry.”
He also said that during lockdowns – and in countries where lockdowns are still in place – farmers cannot bring their food to market.
Meanwhile, some countries are facing abnormally severe droughts, according to Segar. This “essentially prevents them from harvesting and keeping livestock alive,” he said.
East Africa, for example, is facing its worst drought in decades, and up to 20 million people are at risk of starvation, the BBC reported in May.
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Indeed, the war in Ukraine has tightened an already insufficient supply, which has contributed to higher food prices – as well as global inflation, according to Segar.
“Costs are rising … so food is becoming less affordable for people here in the United States, but especially for people who are about to enter the famine phase around the world,” Segar told FoxNews. He said the problem is particularly serious in some developing countries where people earn $1.90 a day.
“You can’t survive when you’re making $1.90 a day and the cost of food has gone up 50%,” Segar said.
The World Food Program’s monthly running costs have risen 50% since 2019. The $71 million increase could feed 3.8 million people once a day for a month, according to the UN branch.
The invasion of Russia also affected the World Food Program’s ability to obtain food. About 50% of its wheat came from Ukraine, according to Segar.
“There is enough food between corn, wheat and oil stored in silos or on container ships in Ukraine to feed 400 million people,” he said.
“Imagine if we can’t get this food to the hungry, to the hungry,” Segar continued. “This is going to have a devastating effect on the world.”
According to the World Food Program, almost all of Ukraine’s grain exports were shipped from the Black Sea before the war. But moving food overland is “a very daunting task” — and expensive — Lander told Fox News.
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Additionally, Ukrainian farmers, who normally harvest in July and August, will have nowhere to store their produce unless ports reopen, meaning it could go to waste.
“I don’t have an immediate solution except to stop the war in Ukraine,” he said. “There is no reason to have a war in Ukraine, and there is no reason for us to face this kind of additional pressure on vulnerable populations around the world.”
“One reaction everyone should have is outrage,” Lander added. “You know, it’s outrageous that in a world of this century and this modern world, that we have so many people, let alone one person starving.”
Lander said a longer-term solution would be to develop other countries’ ability to export high-quality food at high volume to diversify available sources.
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“But to do that, you have to inject resources so that those farmers can have the ability to produce grain at that kind of level of that quality and at that scale,” Lander told Fox News. “It’s an investment.”
He said there was already “enough food in the world to feed everyone on the planet”. But the problem is moving it successfully to people in need.
“We can feed them. That’s no problem,” Lander told Fox News. “We can get this food. We can move it to where it needs to be, but we need funds to be able to do that.”
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