Sep 16, 2022 - World

UN: 345 million at risk of starvation as Ukraine war worsens crisis

Yemenis displaced by the conflict, receive food aid and supplies to meet their basic needs, at a camp in Hays district in the war-ravaged western province of Hodeida on August 31.

Yemenis displaced by conflict receive food and other aid at a camp in in the war-ravaged western province of Hodeida in August, as Russia's war on Ukraine heightens concerns of a deepening famine. Photo: Khaled Ziad/AFP via Getty Images

The UN food chief said Thursday the war in Ukraine is worsening an "unprecedented" global emergency, with up to 345 million people in 82 countries "marching towards starvation."

Driving the news: Surging food, fuel and fertilizer costs related to the war have driven some 70 million people closer to starvation, UN World Food Program Director David Beasley told the United Nations Security Council.

  • That's on top of the "perfect storm" of increased conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic's economic impacts and climate change that was already threatening countries before Russia's military invaded Ukraine in February, he noted.

Threat level: Some 50 million people living in 45 countries are now "knocking on famine's door," according to Beasley.

  • Martin Griffiths, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, described the situation in Yemen, South Sudan, Ethiopia and northeast Nigeria in particular as bleak, as about 43 million people face high levels of food insecurity in those areas.
  • Máximo Torero, UN chief economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization, told the Security Council there were also alarming levels of food insecurity in Afghanistan and Somalia.

Of note: Beasley said the Ukraine war was driving up inflation and worsening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the Middle East country was almost totally reliant on food imports.

Meanwhile, Beasley said food supplies were at risk of crisis despite a UN-brokered July agreement between Ukrainian and Russian officials to export vital grain from Ukraine following a sustained ports blockade by Russia's military that worsened global food crisis, particularly in African countries.

The bottom line: "What was a wave of hunger is now a tsunami of hunger," Beasley said.

Go deeper