Russia-Ukraine conflict: One-fifth of humanity could face poverty, hunger, says UN Sec-Gen Guterres

UNITED NATIONS— The Ukraine crisis could plunge more than one fifth of humanity, or up to 1.7 billion people, into poverty and hunger, according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“We all see the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine. But beyond its borders, the war has launched a silent assault on the developing world. The crisis could plunge up to 1.7 billion people, more than a fifth of humanity, into poverty and hunger on a scale not seen in decades,” Guterres said in an interview with the Czech Seznam Zpravy publication.

Ukraine and Russia account for 30 per cent of world production of wheat and barley, a fifth of all corn and more than half of all sunflower oil, Guterres said, specifying that Russia and Ukraine account for over a third of the wheat exported to the 45 least developed countries.

The UN Secretary-General said that the Ukraine crisis is blocking grain exports and disrupting supply chains, causing prices to skyrocket. Since the start of 2022, wheat and corn prices have gone up by 30 percent, Brent crude oil prices have risen by more than 60 percent, while gas and fertiliser prices have more than doubled.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said that the Ukraine conflict will downgrade forecasts for 143 economies this year, which collectively make up 86 per cent of the world’s GDP.

The chiefs of the IMF, the World Bank, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) issued a joint statement on Wednesday calling for urgent, coordinated action to address food security amid the fallout of the Ukraine crisis, which is adding to the still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.