BERLIN– The UN chief warned on Friday that the world was facing a “catastrophe” due to growing food shortages around the world.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruption caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” that already affects 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 wealthy and developing countries meeting in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”
António Guterres noted that harvests in Asia, Africa and the Americas will be hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.
“This year’s food access problems could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a disaster.”
Guterres said UN negotiators were working on a deal that would allow Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer 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 stabilize global food markets.
The host of the Berlin meeting, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were responsible for the food shortages was “completely unsustainable”.
Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.
She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the world’s growing hunger crisis.
“But it was Russia’s attack war on Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.
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