Conflict and food security: The New and Old Faces of Hunger

“When war is waged, people go hungry.” Secretary-General António Guterres. It is surely time to stop both of these things.

Photo: Woman and her daughter visit food bank in Osage, Iowa. PHOTOGRAPHS BY AMY TOENSING

21 May 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News

You probably did not hear about the ‘Open debate in connection with “Conflict and food security”.

Below are three samples of the main presentations.

You might notice that, of the three, only one does not seem keen on addressing the actual issues at hand.

Even so, a quick glance at the proceedings will confirm that this situation did not just happen. It was created.

As usual, you may decide who you wish to blame for this mess.

And the question as to whether this war has caused the so-called ‘cost of living crisis’ or whether it was in full swing before that is still open for debate.

Along the way, we will also look at some ‘new’ and ‘old’ faces of hunger.

James Porteous | Clipper Media News

National Geographic: The New Face of Hunger

Millions of working Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from. We sent three photographers to explore hunger in three very different parts of the United States, each giving different faces to the same statistic: One-sixth of Americans don’t have enough food to eat.

1m UK adults ‘go entire day without food’ in cost of living crisis

Food insecurity threatens societies, exacerbates conflicts and ‘no country is immune’

19 May 2022

Peace and Security


A sharp increase in global food insecurity threatens to destabilize fragile societies and exacerbate armed conflicts and regional instability.

The Security Council open debate seeks to identify ways to break the cycle of conflict-driven food insecurity. It provides an opportunity to review and consider ways to mitigate these impacts, including bolstering global food supply in a manner consistent with international trade obligations, promoting compliance with international humanitarian law obligations, and mobilizing resources and collective action to improve food security and resilience, especially in the least developed countries.

Conflict means hunger

Last year, most of the 140 million people suffering acute hunger around the world lived in just ten countries: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – eight of which are on the Council’s agenda. 

“Let there be no doubt: when this Council debates conflict, you debate hunger. When you make decisions about peacekeeping and political missions, you make decisions about hunger. And when you fail to reach consensus, hungry people pay a high price,” Mr. Guterres spelled out.

Though pleased to announce that the Central Emergency Response Fund is releasing $30 million to meet food security needs in Niger, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso, he said sadly: “But it is a drop in the ocean”. 

Emergency levels of hunger

The UN chief expressed concern over food insecurity in the Horn of Africa, which is suffering its longest drought in four decades, impacting more than 18 million people, while continuous conflict and insecurity plague the people of Ethiopia and Somalia.

Globally, 44 million people in 38 countries are at emergency levels of hunger, known as IPC 4 – just one step away from famine.

More than half a million people in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Yemen and Madagascar are already in IPC level 5: catastrophic or famine conditions.

‘Frightening new dimension’

The war in Ukraine is now adding a frightening new dimension to this picture of global hunger,” said the UN chief.

Russia’s invasion has meant a huge drop in food exports and triggered price increases of up to 30 per cent for staple foods, threatening people in countries across Africa and the Middle East.

Leaders of Senegal, Niger and Nigeria confirmed to Mr. Guterres that they were on the brink of devastation.

While UN humanitarian operations are gearing up to help, they too are suffering the impact of rising food prices, including in East Africa where the cost of food assistance has increased 65 per cent on average, in the past year.

Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UN Security Council open debate “Conflict and food security”


We welcome Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, FAO Director General Qu Dongyu and WFP Executive Director David Beasley to this meeting and thank them for the briefings. We also note the high level of representation at this debate.


Present-day political culture of Western states is best characterized by a striving to blame Russia for everything. After we started a special military operation in Ukraine, the allegations against Moscow have made a “quantum leap”. Among them, allegations related to food security assumed a leading role.

This meeting is a clear confirmation of this fact. From what you say, Russia wants to starve everyone to death, while all you and Ukrainians care about is saving lives of those who are starving. A nice picture, though absolutely deceitful.

Let’s recall that threat of a global food crisis did not emerge as recently as this year. David Beasley, who is present here today, warned about a possibility of famines “of biblical proportions” and a “perfect storm” back in 2020.

At that point, 155 million people in 55 countries were facing critical threats to food security. Among the reasons that D.Beasley cited were conflicts, extreme weather phenomena, and economic perturbations.

We regret that our colleagues, Western UNSC members, did not have enough courage to comment on the root causes of food and other crises in such states as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria.

As of today, the number of starving people is estimated to stand at 193 million. When speaking on behalf of the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance on 10 May, Secretary-General of UNCTAD Rebeca Grynspan said that there is no problem of a physical deficit of food in the world, and that it is all about food distribution systems.

Experts of the grain market also cite the factor of price swings, and there is nothing new about it. As reported by stock markets, the rate of growth of wheat prices in 2021 stood at 25 %. By February this year, the prices were more than 60 % higher that the five-year average.

Among the reasons that triggered this situation, leading experts point out such consequences of COVID-19 pandemic as interruptions in supply chains, growing freight and insurance charges. Steep increase of anti-crisis financial injections in economy also played a role.

Thus, the United States, European Union, and Japan jointly spent more than 8 trillion dollars on that, which dispersed the demand and whipped up inflation. Add to this all previously started trade wars and lasting contradictions with regard to agricultural market regulations.

As a result, food supplies turned out to stand at their lowest in recent 5-10 years, which kicked up food prices and related costs. At the same time, Western states drew over all commodity flows, which aggravated the already complicated situation of import-dependent developing countries.

An important factor is the leap over to green energy that is being imposed on the entire world instead of a thoroughly considered smooth energy transition, to say nothing of straight-up politicizing of energy cooperation by some states.

As a result, energy projects were abandoned recklessly and energy prices spiked. In 2020-2022 oil prices increased by more than 22 %, affecting fuel for farm machinery and agricultural carriers, as well as electricity for food industry.

Gas price also went record high – in December 2021 gas spot price reached a psychological benchmark of 2,000 dollars for a thousand cubic meters, even though Russia enhanced deliveries. This led up to an unprecedented increase of prices for mineral fertilizers in December 2021: carbamide and saltpeter prices multiplied by 3.5-4, prices for other fertilizers increased two- or threefold. If fertilizer prices grow, the cost of grain also increases.

Speculations at Western futures markets of foodstuffs add to the problem, because it also boosts commodity prices, i.a. for wheat, corn, and pulse crops. Besides, we should not forget about unfavorable weather conditions in recent years, e.g. in the US, Canada, Australia, France. As you can see, none of these key factors that laid the groundwork for the current situation at agricultural markets can be blamed on Russia.

Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Conflict and Food Security

Mr. President, 

I thank Secretary-General Guterres, Director-General Qu Dongyu, and Executive Director Beasley for their briefings. I have also listened carefully to the remarks by Ms. Menker. You presented the current state of food security in your briefings, which is very disturbing. The recommendations you provided should be taken seriously. 

Food security is first and foremost a top priority, as it relates to people’s well being and livelihood. It is also a long standing challenge facing the international community.

The COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather events, economic recession, and geopolitical conflicts are factors in play that have contributed to the sharp rise in food prices, further accentuating the imbalance between supply and demand.

As a result, developing countries are hit the hardest. We need to stay calm and objective, take practical measures to holistically look at the food security issue, and address the bottlenecks and breakpoint of the supply chain in order to tackle the global food security challenge facing us all. 

Firstly, we need to strengthen coordination and stabilize the global food market. The current food crisis is caused by reduced supply, logistical disruption, and in particular rising prices. 

To fill the supply gap, the international community needs to work together to seek diversified food supplies, and maintain the smooth operation of agricultural trade internationally. It is important to bring back to the international market agricultural products and fertilizers from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. We welcome the efforts of the UN Secretary-General to this end.

In the globalized era, any slight disruption in the supply chain is quickly transmitted, generating a ripple effect. Weaponizing economic interdependence will only create man-made difficulties, and amplify local risks. We call for speedy removal of the restrictions on food production and exports imposed by unilateral sanctions, so as to allow for a steady flow of food production and supply.

According to World Bank estimates, for every one percentage point increase in food prices, ten million people worldwide will fall into extreme poverty.

Major food exporting countries and countries with major food enterprises have a shared responsibility to combat hoarding for profiteering purposes, limit financial speculation, instill stability and confidence in the market, and bring under control the steady rising food prices. 

Secondly, we need to scale up emergency assistance to help vulnerable countries weather the storm. In the past year, some 193 million people in 53 countries and regions faced food insecurity. And the situation this year will only get worse.

When people do not have enough to eat, social problems and even security problems will arise. Now, a number of countries are already experiencing food-related social unrest. This is a troubling development. Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, countries in the Horn of Africa and Sahel region are highly dependent on food imports.

The international community, the developed countries in particular, should increase the provision of emergency food supplies and assistance, and provide timely and targeted help to vulnerable groups such as women and children. It is important that international relief agencies are guaranteed of humanitarian access. 

Many countries are under pressure on balance of payments due to rising food prices. International financial institutions and developed economies should strengthen policy and financing support to developing countries facing special difficulties.

A certain country should adopt responsible monetary policies, taking into full account of the spillover effects of its own interest rate adjustments, in order to avoid adding to the debt service burden of developing countries concerned, thus weakening their food purchasing power. 

Thirdly, we need to promote deep transformation and enhance the resilience of the global food system. Like many food crises we faced since the 20th century, the current crisis once again brings to light the structural problems of the global food system.

The world food supply and demand pattern is characterized by food production highly concentrated in a few countries, while consumer countries are geographically well dispersed. This makes the balance of food supply and demand highly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions pandemics, armed conflicts, and other emergency and unforeseen factors. 

To strengthen the resilience of global food system to withstand risks, it is important to help developing countries enhance their self-sustaining capacity, increase agriculture and rural inputs, accelerate progress in agricultural science and technology, improve agriculture infrastructure, and expand food availability.

The three UN agricultural agencies and international financial institutions should leverage their respective strengths, and play an active role in situational analysis, policy advice, and aid coordination, and provide more support to developing countries.

Remarks by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Conflict and Food Security

Secretary Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State
New York, New York
May 19, 2022


I shall now make a statement in my capacity as the Secretary of State of the United States of America.

And again, good morning to everyone. Thank you all very much for being here. My thanks to the secretary-general, to Executive Director Beasley, to Director General Chew, and to Gro Intelligence CEO Sara Menker.

Thank you for the superb briefings of the council today that bring powerfully before us the facts and the challenge that we have to meet. And thank you for your work every day on an issue that is truly critical to humanity.

We do meet at a moment of unprecedented global hunger, fueled, as we’ve heard, by climate change, by COVID-19, and made even worse by conflict.

To supplement what they get from the food pantry, the cash-strapped Reams family forages in the woods near their Osage home for puffball mushrooms and grapes. Kyera Reams cans homegrown vegetables when they are in season and plentiful, so that her family can eat healthfully all year. “I’m resourceful with my food,” she says. “I think about what people did in the Great Depression.”

Indeed, conflicts around the world are increasingly driving this crisis. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program, the number of people affected by food insecurity due to conflict rose from about 100 million people in 2020, to 139 million or so people in 2021, to an estimated 161 million people in 2022. The World Bank believes that Russia’s war in Ukraine could add another 40 million people to this total.

Yesterday, we had ministers from more than 30 countries come together here at the United Nations to address the drivers of – and advance solutions to – global food insecurity, including by meeting the urgent need for food, for fertilizer, humanitarian financing, investing more in the resilience of agriculture and vulnerable populations.

For our part, the United States announced another $215 million in emergency food assistance to add to our $2.3 billion in humanitarian food aid since February. I want to thank all of the countries that stepped up, and I want to encourage others to join us.

In 2018, this council adopted Resolution 2417, which condemned the use of starvation of civilians as a tool of war, and noted that such a use may constitute a war crime.

Yet, in the years since that resolution, the problem has only grown worse. The Russian Federation’s flagrant disregard of this resolution is just the latest example of a government using the hunger of civilians to try to advance its objectives.

It’s also another example of how Russia is violating the rules-based international order that is integral to the shared security and prosperity of all UN member states – an order this council, and in particular its permanent members, have a responsibility to uphold, to defend, and to strengthen.

In this council, a few members have repeatedly used language lamenting the suffering caused by this war and calling on “all sides” to bring it to a stop. Let’s not use diplomatic speak to obfuscate what are simple facts: The decision to wage this war is the Kremlin’s, and the Kremlin’s alone. If Russia stopped fighting tomorrow, the war would end. If Ukraine stopped fighting, there would be no more Ukraine.

A worker at a food bank in Peckham, London, prepares emergency food parcels. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

A worker at a food bank in Peckham, London, prepares emergency food parcels. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression has halted maritime trade in large swaths of the Black Sea. It’s made the region unsafe for navigation, trapping Ukrainian agricultural exports, as we’ve heard, jeopardizing global food supplies.

Since February 24th, Russian naval operations have demonstrated the intent to control access to the northwestern Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, to block Ukrainian ports. Our assessment is that this is a deliberate effort, evidenced through a series of actions taken by the Russian Government.

On the first day of the invasion, Russia issued an official warning to all members that significant areas of the Black Sea were closed to commercial traffic, essentially shutting them down to shipping.

Since then, the Russian military has repeatedly blocked safe passage to and from Ukraine by closing the Kerch Strait, tightening its control over the Sea of Azov, stationing warships off Ukrainian ports. And Russia has struck Ukrainian ports multiple times.

These and other actions have effectively cut off all commercial naval traffic in and around the port of Odessa.

The Russian Federation has mirrored these attacks on land, repeatedly attacking Ukrainian civilian infrastructure that is critical to the production and transport of food, such as water, power, rail lines; destroying Ukrainian grain storage facilities; stealing stocks of food in the parts of Ukraine that it illegally occupies.


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