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News, June 2022
Africa Is Hardest Hit by Food Shortages, Due to the Ukraine War
June 15, 2022
5 countries hit hard by the grain crisis in Ukraine
Russia’s war in Ukraine has raised global food prices, with developing countries bearing the brunt of the impact
Washington Post, June 15, 2022
Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and the ripple effects of Western sanctions on Moscow have driven up global food prices, raised fears of looming grain shortages and exacerbated concerns about rising hunger around the world.
Ukraine and Russia produce about a third of the wheat traded in global markets, and about a quarter of the world’s barley, according to the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Exports from the two countries — which also include sunflower oil and corn to feed livestock — account for about 12 percent of total calories traded in the world.
The war could affect at least three wheat harvests in Ukraine, the country’s agriculture minister, Mykola Solskyi, said Tuesday in an interview with Reuters, with last year’s harvest still stuck at Black Sea ports and nowhere to store the incoming crops.
U.S. and European officials have accused Russia of weaponizing food and called for the reopening of Ukraine’s ports. The crisis comes as climate disasters, conflict and economic strain from the coronavirus pandemic were already causing hunger to worsen in many countries, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.
The war in Ukraine could push up the number of people facing acute food insecurity by 47 million this year, according to the United Nations.
Some places are already feeling the effects of the grain crisis. Here are five countries to watch.
A vendor measures wheat flour for retail at a market in Ibafo in southwest Nigeria in March. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, depends heavily on imported grain. Wheat makes up a large portion of the diet, but only 1 percent of the wheat consumed annually is produced domestically.
About 43 percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line. Malnutrition and food insecurity have stunted the growth of more than a third of children under 5, according to government statistics from 2018.
The war in Ukraine has compounded other factors fueling hunger in Nigeria, including an insurgency in the northeast and a below-average rainfall forecast in the country’s Middle Belt and southern regions.
Nigeria was among a handful of nations ranked at the highest alert level in the latest U.N. “Hunger Hotspots” report. This year, the number of people in Nigeria included under the “emergency” category in the international food insecurity classification system is projected to reach nearly 1.2 million between June and August.
“Africa has no control over production or logistics chains and is totally at the mercy of the situation,” Senegalese President Macky Sall, chair of the African Union, said ahead of a trip to Russia this month to seek a resolution to the crisis.
Sall later warned in an interview with France 24 that famine could destabilize the continent.
Somalia and Ethiopia
A man carries a bag of wheat to be loaded on an aid truck at a U.N. storehouse on the outskirts of Semera, Ethiopia, on May 15. (Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images)
Somalia and Ethiopia, located in the Horn of Africa, are dealing with a lethal intersection of climate change, conflict and rising food prices.
Along with Kenya, the countries are in the midst of their worst drought in four decades. The World Food Program warned that 20 million people in the region could go hungry because of drought by the end of the year.
Because of the “very severe climactic conditions,” countries in the Horn of Africa needed to import more food than usual this year, David Laborde, senior research fellow at IFPRI, said. But Somalia relies on Russia and Ukraine for more than 90 percent of its wheat imports.
Domestic conflicts are further complicating access to food. In Somalia, fighting between the government and al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants continues to drive displacement. In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has been battling rebels from the northern Tigray region since 2020. More than 9 million people have required food aid because of the war, according to the United Nations, and hundreds of thousands were on the brink of famine during some periods.
The war in Ukraine contributed to a surge in food prices in Ethiopia this spring, with aid groups reporting a “massive shortage” of bread and oil.
Somalia and Ethiopia also fall under the United Nations’ highest alert category — Phase 5 of the Integrated Phase Classification — where some populations are “identified or projected to experience starvation or death.”
More than 80,000 people in Somalia could face these conditions this year, according to U.N. projections. Children are already dying of malnutrition, and nearly 2 million across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia need treatment urgently.
UNICEF, the U.N. children’s fund, has warned that the Ukraine conflict is hampering its ability to respond. The cost of therapeutic food the agency uses to treat children with severe acute malnutrition is expected to rise by 16 percent globally over the next six months, UNICEF’s deputy regional director for eastern and southern Africa, Rania Dagash, said this month.
Egyptian farmers harvest wheat in Bamha village near al-Ayyat town in Giza province on May 17. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)
The Middle East and North Africa region is particularly affected by the conflict because of its proximity to the Black Sea, Corinne Fleischer, the World Food Program’s regional director, told The Washington Post.
The coronavirus pandemic caused hunger in the region to rise by 25 percent. “We’re expecting another 10 to 12 percent rise, because those people who are at risk now get higher prices, and that’s going to make them dependent on receiving food aid,” she said.
Supply issues and high food prices caused by the war could be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back for many, many people in the region,” Fleischer said.
Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat. Russia and Ukraine together supplied more than 80 percent of the country’s wheat imports before the war, so it was immediately affected by supply disruptions.
Traditional “baladi” flatbread is the backbone of the Egyptian diet, and the government subsidizes bread for more than 70 million of Egypt’s approximately 102 million people.
Famine isn’t a concern in Egypt, Laborde said. Instead, worries revolve around the cost for the government to “maintain their social safety net programs and to avoid some kind of political instability,” he said.
High food prices were among the economic woes that contributed to the outbreak of the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions. And price increases affecting bread and other goods in Egypt in the 1970s sparked riots that prompted the government to quickly reverse course.
“Conflict drives hunger, and hunger feeds conflict,” Fleischer said.
To stave off discontent, the government has looked for new wheat suppliers, ordered Egyptian farmers to harvest their wheat ahead of schedule and sought funds from Saudi Arabia and the IMF to help bankroll its bread subsidies, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The government has kept bread subsidies in place but added stricter conditions for eligibility to curb spending. It also put limits on the amount vendors can charge for unsubsidized baladi bread, according to the Journal — so bakeries and bread sellers are bearing the brunt of the rising global wheat prices.
Yemeni workers carry bags of flour outside of a wholesale store in the capital, Sanaa, on March 27. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images)
The World Food Program was already providing food for 13 million people in Yemen, where a long civil war has driven up food and fuel prices and caused a widespread hunger crisis.
The agency typically buys half of the wheat for its global food assistance from Ukraine. At a time when more people around the world require aid, the cost of providing it has gone up, leaving the agency with significant budget shortfalls. WFP announced Tuesday that it was suspending part of its food aid in South Sudan after funding ran out.
“We’re now having to decide which children eat, which children don’t eat, which children live, which children die,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley told The Post last month. The program already had to cut food rations for 8 million people in Yemen before Russia invaded Ukraine. Now, Fleischer said, the agency fears that it will have to cut more.
As part of the Ukraine aid bill lawmakers passed in May, the United States allocated $5 billion to address global food shortages stemming from the war.
Still, for some people in countries vulnerable to famine and mired in conflict, the effects of the war in Ukraine could make the difference between life and death.
“You can survive up to the point where you cannot,” Laborde said.
African Union head Sall 'reassured' after talks with Putin on food shortages
France24, AFP, 03/06/2022
03:14 Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Senegal's President Macky Sall, who is currently the chairman of the African Union, at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, Russia, on June 3, 2022. © Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters Text by:NEWS WIRES 3 min
African Union head Macky Sall said on Friday he was "reassured" after talks in Russia with President Vladimir Putin on food shortages caused by Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine.
Putin hosted the Senegalese president, who chairs the African Union, at his Black Sea residence in Sochi on the 100th day of Moscow's offensive in Ukraine. Global food shortages and grain supplies stuck in Ukrainian ports were high on the agenda.
"I found Vladimir Putin committed and aware that the crisis and sanctions create serious problems for weak economies, such as African economies," Sall told journalists, adding that he was leaving Russia "very reassured and very happy with our exchanges".
Ahead of the talks, which lasted three hours, Sall asked Putin to "become aware that our countries, even if they are far from the theatre (of action), are victims on an economic level" of the conflict.
He said it was important to work together so that "everything that concerns food, grain, fertiliser is actually outside" Western sanctions imposed on Moscow after Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.
In his remarks in front of reporters before the talks, Putin did not mention grain supplies but said Russia was "always on Africa's side" and was now keen to ramp up cooperation.
"At the new stage of development, we place great importance on our relations with African countries, and I must say this has had a certain positive result," Putin added.
Putin did not make a statement following the talks.
Washington and Brussels have imposed unprecedented sanctions against Moscow, pushing Putin to seek new markets and strengthen ties with countries in Africa and Asia.
The Kremlin said the two leaders discussed expanding "political dialogue" between Russia and the African Union as well as economic and humanitarian cooperation.
Speaking to reporters earlier on Friday, Putin's spokesman said the Russian leader would explain to Sall "the real state of affairs" concerning grain supplies stuck in Ukrainian ports.
"No-one is blocking these ports, at least not from the Russian side," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Putin has said Moscow is ready to look for ways to ship grain stuck at Ukrainian ports but has demanded the West lift sanctions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected in Turkey next Wednesday for talks on creating a "security corridor" to unblock grain exports from Ukraine.
Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine and a barrage of international sanctions on Russia have disrupted supplies of fertiliser, wheat and other commodities from both countries, pushing up prices for food and fuel.
Cereal prices in Africa, the world's poorest continent, have surged because of the slump in exports from Ukraine, sharpening the impact of conflict and climate change and sparking fears of social unrest.
The UN has said Africa faces an "unprecedented" crisis caused by the conflict.
On Thursday, landlocked Chad in central Africa declared a "food emergency", urging the international community to help.
Ships loaded with grain remain blocked in Ukraine, which before February was a leading exporter of corn and wheat and alone accounted for 50 percent of world trade in sunflower seeds and oil.
Navigation in the Black Sea has also been hampered by mines placed by both Russian and Ukrainian forces.
In 2019, Putin hosted dozens of African leaders in Sochi in a bid to reassert Russia's influence on the continent.
Though never a colonial power in Africa, Moscow was a crucial player on the continent in the Soviet era, backing independence movements and training a generation of African leaders.
Russia's ties with Africa declined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and in recent years China has emerged as a key foreign power on the continent.
Horn of Africa Drought: Humanitarian Update, 10 June 2022
Relief Web International, 10 Jun 2022
Humanitarian Key Messages
1. Communities in the Horn of Africa are facing the threat of starvation following four consecutive failed rainy seasons in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years, according to a recent alert issued by meteorological agencies and humanitarian organizations. The October-December 2020, March-May 2021, October-December 2021 and March-May 2022 seasons were all marred by below-average rainfall, leaving large swathes of Somalia, southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, and northern and eastern Kenya facing the most prolonged drought in recent history. The March-May 2022 rainy season is likely the driest on record.
2. At least 18.4 million people are already waking each day to high levels of acute food insecurity and rising malnutrition across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and this figure could increase to 20 million by September. In Somalia, 7.1 million people are now acutely food insecure—including 213,000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)—and 8 areas of the country are at risk of famine between now and September 2022, with Bay region of particular concern. About 7.2 million people in Ethiopia and some 4.1 million people in Kenya are severely food insecure due to the drought. At least 7 million livestock—which pastoralist families rely upon for sustenance and livelihoods—have died across the Horn of Africa, including more than 1.5 million in Kenya, between 2.1 million and 2.5 million in southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, and 3 million in Somalia. Consequently, children have less access to milk, negatively affecting their nutrition. Across the three countries, malnutrition rates are rising: more than 7.1 million children are acutely malnourished, including about 2 million who are severely acutely malnourished, according to UNICEF.
3. Food prices are spiking in many drought-affected areas, due to a combination of macro-economic challenges, below-average harvests and rising prices on international markets, including as a result of the war in Ukraine. The cost of a food basket has already risen by 66 per cent in Ethiopia and by 36 per cent in Somalia, leaving families unable to afford even basic items and forcing them to sell their hard-earned properties and assets in exchange for food and other life-saving items. There are also repercussions for food for refugee programmes, which are already impacted by reduced rations due to lack of funding support.
4. Across the Horn of Africa, millions of people are facing dire water shortages. Many water points have dried up or diminished in quality, heightening the risk of water-borne diseases and increasing the risk of skin and eye infections as families are forced to ration their water use and prioritize drinking and cooking over hygiene. Existing water deficits have been exacerbated by very high temperatures, which are forecast to continue from June to September. In some of the worst affected areas in Somalia, water prices have spiked by up to 72 per cent since November 2021. Women and girls are having to walk longer distances to access water, exacerbating their potential exposure to gender-based violence. Water shortages are also impacting infection prevention and control in health facilities and schools, leading to poor treatment outcomes for children, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups. In Ethiopia and Kenya, there are already reports of an increase in pregnant women being exposed to infections—the worst of which have resulted in death—following deliveries both at home and at health facilities due to limited availability of water.
5. Families are taking desperate measures to survive, with more than one million people leaving their homes in search of food, water and pasture, increasing the risk of inter-communal conflict, as well as heightening pressure on already limited basic services. Since January 2021, over 805,000 people in Somalia have been displaced: some have migrated to near-by towns, joining existing camps for internally displaced people, while others have crossed borders seeking support or traversed dangerous distances controlled by armed groups and contaminated with explosives in search of work or humanitarian assistance. Over 13,000 people crossed from Somalia into Dollo Ado, Ethiopia from the end of 2021 to May 2022. In southern Ethiopia, some 286,000 people have been forced from their homes due to the worsening drought, and in the ASAL region of Kenya, pastoralists are trekking long distances to find water and pasture for livestock, leading to resource-based and inter-communal tensions and conflict and exposing women, children and the elderly who are left behind to heightened protection risks and shortages of essential items, including food. People who were already internally displaced before the drought, and living without the support of their traditional family network or other social safety nets, have been forced to further relocate in search of food, water and pasture for their livestock, thereby becoming more vulnerable and more exposed to protection risks.
6. The drought is having devastating consequences for women and children, heightening the risk of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse, and hampering children’s access to education. Risks of gender based violence—including sexual violence, sexual exploitation, intimate partner violence and female genital mutilation—are increasing during this crisis, while services to respond remain limited. Female headed-households and adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to increased violence, exploitation and abuse. In Somalia, more younger girls are facing violence compared to previous periods, according to data from IRC’s project sites in Galmudug, Puntland and Benadir regions. In some communities, child marriage has reportedly risen, with families marrying-off young girls in order to lessen demands on their own resources and potentially get money that they can use for food and other necessities. In some communities, families have stopped sending girls to school, prioritizing boys as they cannot afford the school fees. In Somalia, the drought emergency has disrupted education for 1.4 million children, of whom 420,000—45 per cent of them girls—are at risk of dropping out of school. In Ethiopia, more than 2,000 schools are closed, affecting more than 682,000 students.
7. While resilience-building efforts across the region have made important progress, the frequency and severity of droughts in recent years, combined with the exceptionally prolonged nature of the 2021-2022 drought, have made it harder and harder for families to recover between shocks. In the past 10 years alone, the Horn of Africa has endured three severe droughts (2010-2011, 2016-2017 and 2020-2021). The 2010-2011 drought, combined with conflict and complex humanitarian access issues, caused famine in Somalia. The 2016-2017 drought brought millions of people in the region to the brink of famine, which was only prevented through rapid and timely humanitarian response. The increasing frequency of shocks in the region has meant that the vulnerable have little space to recover and bounce back, leading to an increase in the number of internally displaced people.
8. At the same time, many drought-affected communities are struggling to cope with the cumulative consequences of other shocks, including conflict, flooding, COVID-19 and desert locusts. Previously, many of these communities were hit by the extreme rains and flooding which struck the region in 2019, and which was one of the drivers of the historical desert locust outbreak which began in late-2019. The Horn of Africa has also been negatively impacted by the deteriorating macroeconomic conditions and trade disruptions related to the war in Ukraine, at a time when households are still facing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on livelihoods and income sources. In addition, millions of people in Ethiopia and Somalia are affected by conflicts, which may also hinder people’s freedom of movement as they seek reprieve from the drought.
9. Humanitarian partners are working around the clock to keep pace with this rapidly escalating crisis. The delivery of life-saving and life-sustaining assistance has scaled up significantly in recent months, in complement to pre-existing livelihoods, resilience, social protection and systems strengthening interventions. So far in 2022, about 6.5 million drought-affected people have been reached with humanitarian assistance across Somalia (almost 2.8 million), Ethiopia (3.3 million) and Kenya (367,000).
10.However, with the fourth failed rains now a reality, the response must be further scaled-up to save lives and livelihoods and avert starvation and death in the months to come. Humanitarian partners urgently need more than US$1.8 billion to respond to the rapidly increasing needs in the coming months, as reflected in the Drought Response Plans in Ethiopia (about $640 million required from May to December) and Somalia (about $1 billion required from May to December) and the Flash Appeal for Kenya ($180.7M required from May to October).However, only a small percentage of the funding required under these plans has been received, severely hampering the response to the rapidly deepening drought. We therefore urgently call on donors to fund these appeals so that we can immediately respond to the life-threatening needs across the Horn of Africa. In particular, we call on donors to fund the vibrant network of local, community-based and women-led organizations, including refugee-led organizations, which carry-out incredible work in their communities in drought-affected communities each and every day.
11.We welcome the emergency declarations issued by the Governments of Kenya (September 2021) and Somalia (November 2021), and call on governments across the region to prioritize the drought emergency. It is vital that funds are made available for timely and comprehensive support to drought-affected communities at all levels. We also call on governments across the region to ensure that humanitarian workers can access people in need in safety and security.
12.With the latest long-lead seasonal forecasts, supported by a broad consensus from meteorological experts, indicating that there is now a concrete risk that the October-December 2022 rainy season could also fail, there is no time to waste. Immediate action is required to prevent the worst from transpiring in the months ahead.
For the purposes of this Humanitarian Update, the Horn of Africa includes: Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. While other countries across the region are also faced with major humanitarian crises (especially Sudan and South Sudan), and others are seeing rising needs as a result of various factors (including Djibouti and Uganda), the phenomenon of four consecutive failed rainy seasons is unique to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, hence the geographic focus on these three countries in these messages.
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