The United Nations has called a meeting to deal with the worsening global food crisis, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine as well as India’s ban on wheat exports
– Copyright AFP Hector RETAMAL
The World Bank announced Wednesday an additional $12 billion in funding to mitigate the “devastating effects” of severe growing global food insecurity driven by climate change and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The move, which will bring total available funding for projects over the next 15 months to $30 billion, was unveiled hours before a major United Nations meeting on global food security.
Amid the growing shortages intensified by the war in Ukraine, a key grain producer, the new funding will help boost food and fertilizer production, facilitate greater trade and support vulnerable households and producers, the World Bank said.
“Food price increases are having devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable,” World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement.
“It is critical that countries make clear statements now of future output increases in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
The bank previously announced $18.7 billion in funding for projects linked to “food and nutrition security issues” for Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and international economic sanctions on Moscow have disrupted supplies of fertilizer, wheat and other commodities from both countries, pushing up prices for food and fuel, especially in developing nations.
And India over the weekend banned wheat exports, which sent prices for the grain soaring.
“Countries should make concerted efforts to increase the supply of energy and fertilizer, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that block exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage unnecessary storage,” Malpass said.
– Ukraine only ‘latest shock’ –
Washington welcomed the decision, which is part of a joint action plan by multilateral lenders and regional development banks to address the food crisis.
“The Russian war against Ukraine is the latest global shock that is exacerbating the sharp increase in both acute and chronic food insecurity in recent years driven by conflict, climate change and economic downturns, such as those associated with the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Treasury Department said, applauding the institutions for working swiftly to address the issues.
The situation will only grow worse because of the Ukrainian war, experts warn, as Russia and Ukraine alone produce 30 percent of the global wheat supply.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due in New York on Wednesday to chair a UN meeting on global food security.
Vellamvelly Muraleedharan, India’s minister of state for external affairs, also is due to participate in the meeting.
Washington’s UN ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Monday urged New Delhi to revoke the ban announced Saturday in the face of falling production caused primarily by an extreme heatwave.
She said Wednesday’s session aims to “bring countries together to look at what countries might be able to help fill the gap” in wheat supplies caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But food insecurity had begun to spike even before Moscow invaded its neighbor on February 24.
UN data showed that 193 million people in 53 countries were acutely food insecure last year, meaning they needed urgent assistance to survive.