Anyone watching the news at present would be forgiven for thinking the Russia-Ukraine conflict was over.
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. A country that is a mere 24-hour drive away is still being bombed into submission with millions of men, women, and children living in fear of their lives. This is why we want to continue to bring attention to the plight of the Ukrainian people. The unfortunate reality is that as of August 2022, the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has had a devastating impact on domestic and international food security.
Are Ukrainians able to access food and vital supplies?
The supply and availability of food in Ukraine are extremely precarious, especially in the cities and towns controlled by the Russians in the east of the country.
The Ukraine Food Security Report published in May 2022 by the WFP highlighted the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, with millions struggling to access the food they need; “at the national level, one-third of households were found to be food insecure….one in five of the interviewed households had inadequate current food consumption at the time of the survey.
When combining this with households’ use of coping strategies such as borrowing money or leaving valuable assets behind when displacing, as well as relying on erratic income sources or total income loss, food insecurity estimates rise to approximately one in three nationwide”.
There have also been several reports of Russia systematically stealing grain from Ukraine and moving it within their own borders. Speaking to BBC News, one Ukrainian farmer told them, “They stole our grain. They destroyed our premises, destroyed our equipment”. Thanks to GPS tracking, it has been possible to observe the industrial scale of grain theft from the south of Ukraine, through Crimea, and into Russia.
What is the impact of the Ukraine/Russia conflict on the global food supply?
Beyond the borders of Ukraine, according to the WFP, the conflict is one of many factors which is driving a global food crisis; “A global food crisis fuelled by conflict, climate shocks and the COVID-19 pandemic is growing because of the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine driving rising prices of food, fuel and fertiliser”.
In June 2014, the Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organisation reporting on the extent of the food crisis triggered by the conflict, explained that barely 15 – 20% of the 6 million tonnes of agri-commodities that Ukraine used to export could be sent oversees through rail, river, and trucks due to the blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports by Russia.
Thankfully, in July 2022, both countries signed “mirror” deals brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to allow the export of grain to resume from Black Sea ports. Some vessels have already departed, with the first making its way to Lebanon. Most recently, four ships with around 170,000 tonnes of corn and other foodstuffs set sail.
According to Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, after the resumption of shipment, the plan is now to increase the volume of exports considerably; “We are gradually moving on to larger volumes of work. We plan to ensure the ability of the ports to handle at least 100 vessels per month in the near future”.
While it is very early to be sure that the supply of grain from Ukraine is now reassured, this is certainly a positive sign and one that will help to alleviate food insecurity in developing countries around the world.
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