Ukraine war may create 'more hunger' and 'social unrest', warns IMF chief

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By Joshua Askew  with The Associated Press
A villager harvests wheat in a suburb of Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, April 14, 2022.
A villager harvests wheat in a suburb of Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, April 14, 2022.   -   Copyright  K.M. Chaudary/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the war in Ukraine is threatening world food security, amid chronologically high inflation.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the consequences of Russia's invasion were contributing to higher food prices across the globe, which was threatening food shortages in the Middle East and Africa.

“Grain and corn prices are soaring, and leaders across Africa and the Middle East are telling me that supplies are running low," she said at a speech on Thursday. "Food insecurity is a grave concern."

Middle Eastern countries buy more than 60% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, with the two countries accounting for 28% of global wheat exports before the war.

But, with the outbreak of conflict, the price of wheat has soared, hitting record highs in March.

Georgieva called on the world to "act now with a multilateral initiative to bolster food security."

"The alternative is dire: More hunger, more poverty and more social unrest — especially for countries that have struggled to escape fragility and conflict for many years," she added.

Georgieva also warned of “the fragmentation of the world economy into geopolitical blocs," with the West imposing far-reaching sanctions on Russia while China has expressed support for the Russian regime of President Vladimir Putin.

“In a world where war in Europe creates hunger in Africa; where a pandemic can circle the globe in days and reverberate for years; where emissions anywhere mean rising sea levels almost everywhere — the threat to our collective prosperity from a breakdown in global cooperation cannot be overstated,” she said.

Georgieva called on the world to support Ukrainians and noted that the IMF had delivered $1.4 billion (€1.29 billion) in emergency financing to help Ukraine meet its immediate spending needs.