US to spotlight war-caused food insecurity at 2 UN events

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States said Tuesday it will put a spotlight on the impact of the war in Ukraine and other conflicts on the diminishing availability of food and rising prices at two U.N. events later this month, an issue which has sparked fears of increasing hunger and starvation in many countries.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a news conference that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will chair a ministerial meeting on food insecurity across the globe on May 18 to review current and future humanitarian needs. It will include foreign ministers from many regionally diverse donor nations and countries most affected by the increasing difficulty to provide adequate food to their people, she said.

The United States holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month and the following day — May 19 — Blinken will chair a meeting where its 15 members “will consider steps we need to take to make sure increasing food insecurity does not drive new conflicts, instability, particularly in fragile states,” the U.S. envoy said.

Thomas-Greenfield said Ukraine used to be a breadbasket for the developing world but since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, which has sparked the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, the country’s crucial ports have been blocked, civilian infrastructure and grain silos have been destroyed, and “desperate hunger situations in Africa and the Middle East are getting even more dire.”

French President Emmanuel Macron raised the issue of global food security in a phone conversation Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

Macron said he was willing to work with international organizations to try to help seek a lifting of the Russian blockade on exports of food goods via the Black Sea, the statement said.

Russia and Ukraine together produce 30% of the world’s wheat supply, 20% of its corn, and export about three-quarters of the world’s sunflower seed oil.

The U.N. food chief said in mid-April that some 30 million metric tons of grain bound for export are unable to be shipped because of the war.

David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, warned the Security Council in March that the war in Ukraine has created “a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe” and will have a global impact “beyond anything we’ve seen since World War II” because many of the Ukrainian farmers who produce a significant amount of the world’s wheat are now fighting Russians.

He said already high food prices are skyrocketing and the war in Ukraine is turning “the breadbasket of the world to breadlines” for millions of its people, while devastating countries like Egypt that normally gets 85% of its grain from Ukraine and Lebanon that got 81% in 2020.

Beasley said WFP was feeding 125 million people around the world before the Russian invasion and has had to start cutting rations because of rising food, fuel and shipping costs. WFP had been buying 50% of its grain for needy people from Ukraine.

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