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Global Hunger: The Ukraine Effect - Conflict and Hunger (June 2022)

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In May 2018, the Security Council of the United Nations adopted resolution 2417, which “recalls the link between armed conflict and violence and conflict-induced food insecurity and the threat of famine”. Resolution 2417 called on all parties to armed conflict to comply fully with international humanitarian law. It urged all conflict parties to protect civilian infrastructure critical for the proper functioning of food systems. This document is part of a series of analytical reports that discuss conflict and hunger. It explores how different conflict incidents and reactions to them affect food security

On the 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine marking a steep escalation of the RussoUkrainian War, which had begun in 2014. The conflict caused Europe's fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II with around 5 million individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe.

An estimated third of the population was displaced. Key civilian infrastructure has been damaged and destroyed. This affects the wellbeing of Ukrainians. In addition, as Ukraine has been an important global supplier of food products, the impact of conflict on food security is felt globally far beyond the battle fields of Eastern Ukraine.

The conflict has hindered exports of existing Ukrainian food stocks. There are concerns that Ukraine will not be able to harvest current crops, plant new ones or sustain livestock production at pre-invasion levels. There may also be challenges of where to store crops if existing stocks are not exported. In addition, the conflict has reduced production and exports of fertilisers from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, affecting access to fertilisers and thus food production in many countries around the globe. While the war continues, local, national, and global supply chains are disrupted leading to increased food prices.

The conflict in Ukraine has sparked what is considered the 3rd global food price crisis in 15 years affecting the entire world but causing the most severe challenges for poorer nations.2 This conflict-triggered food crisis is likely to last for years. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted on 20 May 2022 that global food prices had increased by 30% since last year, largely due to cut off of supplies of cooking oil and grain from Ukraine through its ports.
He predicted that some countries could face long term famine if Ukraine’s exports were not restored to pre-war levels.

This briefing note explores the impact of the Ukrainian conflict on global food supplies by examining how specific conflict actions and incidents within Ukraine contributed to global food insecurity. It discusses how conflict events and reactions to them affect food production and exports in the current conflict. It ends by highlighting the context in some of the countries particularly dependent on food imports from Ukraine and Russia.