Global Food Security And The War In Ukraine – OpEd


“Food security exists, when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient food that meets their dietary and healthy life” (World Food Summit 1996).

This broadly accepted definition of the FAO is very demanding and points to 4 dimensions of food security, namely: availability of, access to food, its utilisation and its stability.

In contrast, food insecurity means that at least one of these dimensions is not met. The definition also shows that food(in) security is a gradual phenomenon and food insecurity does not automatically mean hunger. To measure the magnitude and severity of food insecurity, an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (PC) amongst other systems has been put in place.

However, following the latest report of the World Food Programme “the scale of the current global hunger and malnutrition crisis is enormous: This year 350 Mio people are projected to starve from hunger – more than double the number in 2020. More than 900.000 people are fighting to survive in famine-like conditions. This is ten times more than five years ago – an alarmingly rapid increase.

These figures also show that we move away from the aim of zero hunger by 2030 instead of getting closer. Without fundamental and immediate changes in the global food and nutrition system, the global community will fail on its promise to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030 and this would be a shame for the world. Even more so since most experts share the view that the world could nourish up to 10 Billion people.

The status report of “Food Security and nutrition in the world also shows the enormous geographic imbalance of hunger, the uneven distribution within the global society and the harder impact of food insecurity on those who are already disadvantaged.

Children suffer the most from famine and hunger. In 2020 15 Mio children below the age of 5  suffered from hunger “stunting” and another 45 Mio from “wasting” or acute undernutrition.

In the same report the key drivers of hunger were identified. The predominant drivers are persistent military conflicts and terrorism (two thirds) pre-existing and COVID 19 related economic shocks (one fourth) and weather extremes (one tenths). Two thirds of the suffering people are concentrated  in only 10 States. This was the situation before the outbreak of the Ukrainian War. 

The War caused several additional problems, inter alia food insecurity for many Ukrainians, above all for the displaced persons but also for the world commodity markets.

The UN said, that the war`s impact on the global food market could cause up to an additional 13 Mio people to get hungry, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.

In addition, Ukraine is the Nr.5 amongst the wheat exporters, responsible for 8% of global exports and the Nr.1 in sunflower oil exports (39.5% of global exports). But Ukraine is also the Nr.1 supplier of wheat for the World Food Programme.

In addition one must not forget the volatility of the international wheat market prices. The Middle East and many North African countries are the biggest importers of wheat and as soon as the international wheat prices are rocketing  an increase of food insecurity, mainly for the poor people in these countries is unavoidable. 

The consequences of such developments are possible turmoil as we have seen in 2015 during the Arab Spring.

All this shows how important free access to the Ukrainian ports is.

To sum up:

  • Hunger and famine are mainly caused by 3 key drivers: military conflicts and terrorism, economic shocks and weather disasters.
  • Since 2020 the number of hungry people is rising and the aim to achieve zero hunger by 2030 is very likely out of reach.
  • There is an enormous geographic imbalance and an uneven-distribution of food within the global society.
  • The most vulnerable are women and children.
  • Most experts share the view that the world could nourish up to 10 Bio. people.
  • Fighting hunger means providing access to food and a fair distribution of food between all countries.
  • The Ukrainian war worsened food security internally and also globally by adding another 13 Mio to the food insecure people and to provide enough wheat for the World Food Programme.
  • The free access to the Black Sea ports is of utmost importance to be able to bring enough food to the Middle East and to North Africa.

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