WFP Ramps up Food Operation for Ukraine and Warns the World’s Hungry Cannot Afford Another Conflict

Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini/2022
Published March 4, 2022

RZESZOW, Poland – As the emergency operation in Ukraine moved into high gear today, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) expressed deep concern about the waning ability of families in embattled areas to find food and also warned that the crisis could have consequences well beyond Ukraine’s borders.

“In a year when the world is already facing an unprecedented level of hunger, it’s just tragic to see hunger raising its head in what has long been the breadbasket of Europe,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley during a visit to a staging hub set up by the organization on the Polish-Ukrainian border. “The bullets and bombs in Ukraine could take the global hunger crisis to levels beyond anything we’ve seen before.”

With reports coming in of severe shortages of food and water in Kyiv, the capital, and the northeastern city of Kharkiv, U.N. World Food Programme teams are setting up operations and hubs in countries neighboring Ukraine. These will both facilitate delivery of food assistance into the country and assist refugees coming over the borders.

The immediate priority is to establish a food lifeline into Kyiv and other conflict hotspots. With consignments of food assistance arriving every day, the U.N. World Food Programme is in a race against time to pre-position food in areas where fighting is expected to flare. The U.N. World Food Programme is in the process of finding partners in Ukraine to help it distribute assistance and teams in neighbouring countries are identifying local vendors in order to purchase more stock.

Amid a shortage of cash in Ukraine, the U.N. World Food Programme plans to provide assistance through food distributions, cash and food vouchers that can be spent in selected shops. Food distributions will prioritize the big towns on the Ukraine side of the border where families are gathering as they wait to see how the conflict develops. The U.N. World Food Programme also plans to assist refugees who crossed the border to neighbouring countries.

The Russian Federation and Ukraine are responsible for 29% of the global wheat trade. Any serious disruption of production and exports from the region could push food prices beyond their current 10-year highs. This will erode food security for millions of people, especially those who are already under stress because of high levels of food inflation in their countries.

“This is not just a crisis inside Ukraine. This is going to affect supply chains, and particularly the cost of food,” Beasley warned. “Now we’re looking at a price hike that will cost us, in operational costs, anywhere from $60 and $75 million dollars more per month. And that means more people are going to go to bed hungry.”

At the start of 2022, the world is facing an unprecedented hunger challenge, as conflict and climate shocks compounded by COVID-19 and rising costs drive millions of people closer to starvation — threatening to increase migration and instability globally. With the numbers of hungry rising, the U.N. World Food Programme is calling for a step-change in global support for its operations.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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