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Russian blockade of Ukraine food exports in Black Sea port will have deadly consequences for hunger-stricken countries, warns IRC

The ongoing blockade of grain and wheat exports in the Black Sea ports of Ukraine is having dire impacts for regions like East Africa already facing severe food insecurity. Without action, countries like Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia will face famine.

As Black Sea ports in Ukraine - harbouring up to 98% Of Ukraine’s grain and wheat exports - remain under blockade, those already facing dire food insecurity will suffer the most, warns IRC. With Ukraine producing much of the world’s grain, wheat and fertiliser, food prices worldwide have already skyrocketed by 41%, and an additional 47 million people are projected to experience acute hunger this year, according to a recent IRC report.

This blockade will cause global food prices to rise even further and may push countries in East Africa such as Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia — which depend on Russia and Ukraine for 90% of their wheat and are already facing a record drought — into famine. But the consequences of this war are already having far reaching implications for those living in conflict-affected regions.

  • Yemen, which has been enduring a devastating war for the past 7 years and where 19 million people are food insecure, relies on Russia and Ukraine for almost half of its grain imports.
  • Lebanon — already experiencing a severe economic crisis and massive inflation and where half of Syrian refugees are food insecure — imports 80% of its wheat from the region.
  • The Sahel region of West Africa, including Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, is seeing the highest level of food insecurity since 2014 with 18 million people facing food insecurity and more than 7 million children malnourished.
  • Central America and the Caribbean, already suffering from the economic impacts of Covid-19, increasing conflict and natural disasters, are now seeing food prices well above the five-year average.
  • Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are teetering on the brink of famine. Households in East Africa are receiving reduced food rations at the very time they need increased assistance.

The IRC calls for these blockades to be lifted immediately. As international attention continues to focus on the Russia-Ukraine war, there is a risk of funding and attention being diverted from these hunger crises. All related Humanitarian Response Plans remain less than one-third funded, requiring an additional 10 billion from the international community - less than 2% of the US military budget.

David Miliband, IRC President & CEO, said,

“Ukraine has long been the bread basket not just for its neighbours in the region or for Europe, but for the world. Blockades on ports in the Black Sea are holding thousands of tons of wheat, grain and fertiliser hostage - with devastating consequences for millions already caught in growing hunger crises worldwide. These blockades must be lifted immediately.

“In places like Ethiopia, where 8.6 million are going hungry as the region is pushed into a catastrophic hunger crisis, the UN humanitarian appeals remain less than one-third funded. These millions are being doubly punished as life-saving supplies are held hostage.

“The war in Ukraine and its knock-on effects on other humanitarian contexts cannot be underestimated, and are a tragic representation of the System Failure of the international community to address and prevent humanitarian suffering. World leaders must pour all possible diplomatic efforts into ending these blockages, immediately increasing funding to meet existing growing humanitarian need - especially hunger - and save lives.”

The IRC launched an emergency response to the crisis in Ukraine in February 2022 and has been working directly and with local partners to reach those most in need. We are in Poland, Ukraine and Moldova, delivering vital services including cash assistance, mental health support, medical supplies and equipment, and specialised social service support for children and survivors of violence.

 

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.