Black Sea blockage imperils global food security 100 days into Russia-Ukraine war: UN

Food insecurity from war puts 1.7B people at risk of increased poverty, poses threat of mass migration, says UN crisis coordinator.

Black Sea blockage imperils global food security 100 days into Russia-Ukraine war: UN

UN officials warned Friday of endangered world food security 100 days into the Russia-Ukraine war, saying it poses the threat of famine, destabilization, and mass migration worldwide as Russia blockades the Black Sea ports that can send grain to the world.

"Today, we are marking 100 days since the start of the Russian invasion in Ukraine on 24 February; a clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations," Amin Awad, UN crisis coordinator for Ukraine, said at a Geneva UN news conference from Kyiv.

"The impasse on the Black Sea imperils global food and commodity security. Food insecurity is set to become even more worrying, with 1.7 billion people at risk of increased poverty due to the crisis."

As UN officials commented on 100 days of the war in Ukraine at the news conference, Awad said Ukraine's economy is projected to contract by up to 45% this year.

"Unblocking the trade routes in the Black Sea must remain the priority. Failure to open those ports will result in famine, destabilization, and mass migration around the world," he warned.

Awad also said: "I have met with people who had to carry the bodies of their family members and neighbors from the streets of (Ukraine's) Bucha and Irpin to be buried in gardens or mass graves."

8 years of armed conflict

Robert Mardini, who heads the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the "scale of destruction in cities defies comprehension," noting "it's also important to remember that some regions have suffered not 100 days of armed conflict, but eight years of it."

Matthew Hollingworth, the UN World Food Program's emergency coordinator in Ukraine, said WFP shouldn't be in the country.

"This is a country we buy food from. It's a country where we feed the world from. This isn't a country where we should be having to provide humanitarian assistance, "said Hollingworth.

"But because of this war, we have returned. We've returned to a breadbasket of the world, where now sadly, people are having to become significant recipients of humanitarian assistance, where hungry people are standing in breadlines."

Hollingworth referred to the Black Sea ports Russia is blockading, as "the silver bullet" when it comes to avoiding global famines and global hunger to export food to the world.

"But if that silver bullet isn't found, we also need those alliances to support overland deliveries of food exporting from this country, which fed 400 million people last year," said the WFP official.

"Realistically, though, we know this is going to continue, unfortunately, for quite some time to come."

Acute food insecurity

He said the world sees potentially 47 million more people -- 320 million people -- facing "acute food insecurity levels" and to prevent it “we need solutions for the Black Sea ports to open up for food to come out of the country."

UN officials were asked about talks ongoing with Russia to lift the Black Sea ports' blockade.

"There is a lot of shuttling between Moscow and other countries that are of concern, and the negotiations continue. But I don't think there is a very clear-cut emerging solution right now," said crisis coordinator Awad.

He also noted: "It's a militarized Black Sea.

"There ought to be, if not militarization, a passive posture of the naval ships in this area, and agreement by all that passage for food has to be established."

Hüseyin Demir

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