U.S. government officials warn that many African countries will continue to face shortages and high food prices as long as Russia continues to wage war against Ukraine, from which Africa gets much of its wheat and cooking oil.
Speaking to journalists online Tuesday, the U.S. representative to U.N. agencies in Rome, Cindy McCain, said Ukraine is the world’s breadbasket, and the attack on its land and people is raising hunger around the globe.
“The Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that as many as 13 million more people worldwide will be pushed into food insecurity as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The truth of the matter is Putin’s war forces us to take from the hungry to feed the starving. As long as Russia continues its brutal campaign, innocent people are going to pay the price,” she said.
Ukraine annually exports 40% of its wheat and corn to Africa. The World Food Program feeds 138 million people in 80 countries, including Ethiopia and Nigeria, with the grain it gets from the European country.
With Ukrainian supplies cut off, food prices are on the rise across Africa. Meanwhile, increasing energy costs have driven up prices for fertilizers such as phosphate used in food production.
Jim Barnhart, assistant to the administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, says the high cost of living will make life difficult for more families in Africa.
“Reduced food supplies and subsequent price increases in these commodities make it harder for farmers in Zambia to access inputs they need to plant their crops, for families in Malawi to buy nutritious food for their children. So, if that is not mitigated, these price increases could result in significant increases in global poverty, hunger and malnutrition, particularly in regions like sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.
The International Committee for the Red Cross says more than 346 million Africans face a food security crisis, making families skip meals every day.
The ICRC says it will ramp up its operations in 10 countries to combat the food shortages.
The head of ICRC’s global operations, Dominik Stillhart, says the war in Ukraine has impacted their humanitarian work.
“The other impact, which is more indirect, is that the rise in food and fuel prices, as well as supply chains that are seriously affected by the situation in Ukraine, they have an effect on our own capacity to scale up. Lead times are going to be longer, for instance, (and) food imports, and that’s also why we are increasingly resorting to cash transfers to support people in various countries in which we are operating,” he said.
Persistent drought, poor rains in some parts of Africa and conflicts have also exacerbated Africa’s food situation.