The world is facing a hunger crisis — that's the message coming from Germany, which is hosting a key G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps this weekend — and from the UN Secretary-General.
Ukraine's war complicates how the G7 and other world leaders will respond. Around 20 million tonnes of grain remain stuck inside Ukraine and that, along with high global energy prices, has escalated global food prices.
"It is a hunger crisis that is looming before us like a life-threatening wave. Some of the reasons are not new: regional conflicts, especially in Afghanistan, Taliban rule, droughts, the consequences of the climate crisis and also the aftermath of Covid-19, but it was Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami," Germany's foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said on Friday.
The question is whether the seven richest countries in the world, and other states, will now commit to paying for enough food aid to keep the poorest people in the world alive.
Baerbock has said that Moscow's claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia's invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable".
Both the war and the hunger crisis will be discussed at the meeting of G7 leaders who represent Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US. The EU is also a guest and is represented jointly by the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres went even further on Friday. He said the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.
“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to the officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”
The UN's food agency the World Food Programme tweeted what it's asking world leaders, including the G7, to do.
Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.
“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”
Guterres said UN negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.
He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilise global food markets.