The head of the World Food Programme called on Europe to take action to prevent a massive food crisis in Africa and the Middle East after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted food supplies, Politico reports.
Russia’s invasion has disrupted key supply chains and inflated prices, David Beasley, the World Food Programme’s executive director, told Politico. Unless Europe steps up and provides more funding urgently, it could face an unprecedented migration crisis, he warned.
“We’re billions short," he said. "Failure to provide this year a few extra billion dollars means you’re going to have famine, destabilization and mass migration.”
Members of the European Union are expected to present proposals to address the likely food crisis as early as Wednesday.
Heavy reliance on Ukraine, Russia:
Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s largest producers of grain and wheat.
Half of Africa’s wheat imports come from the two countries. Ukraine has banned food exports amid concerns of food shortages and starvation domestically as Russia seeks to cut off the country’s access to shipping routes.
Beasley predicted that the full impact of the disruptions would be evident by the fall.
“If you think we’ve got hell on earth now, you just get ready,” he said. "If we neglect northern Africa, northern Africa’s coming to Europe. If we neglect the Middle East, [the] Middle East is coming to Europe."
$8 billion shortfall:
The WFP is already feeding millions of people in Africa in regions that face total collapse but faces an $8 billion shortfall as a result of Covid, inflation, climate change, and armed conflicts. In Yemen alone, 13 million people rely on the UN food agency to eat.
Beasley traveled to Brussels this week to meet with EU officials in hopes of securing necessary assistance.
“What do you think is going to happen in Paris and Chicago and Brussels when there’s not enough food?” he said. “It’s easy to sit on your high horse in your ivory tower when you’re not the one starving.”
Inflation has especially hurt the WFP, forcing it to cut rations as costs rise.
Beasley said it was a “shame on humanity” that “we’re begging for a few billion dollars” when western nations are sitting on trillions in wealth.
"I need their help financially just for a short term. This is what I’m begging them,” he said, adding, “You’ll pay for it a hundredfold if you don’t.”