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Press Release

Ukraine conflict will worsen hunger in world’s worst crisis zones, warns IRC

  • East Africa relies on Russia and Ukraine to provide 90 per cent of imported wheat, whilst Yemen relies on the region for over one fifth of its supplies.
  • 4 million Somalis are projected to face emergency levels of hunger by June of this year with the humanitarian response plan funded at a meager 3.8%.
  • Syria received less than half (46.5%) required funding in the last year, despite eleven years of conflict and Yemen is set to receive less than 30% of the required funds this year after 7 years of conflict
  • Afghanistan, Yemen and Sahel, all facing acute food insecurity will be severely impacted by global grain reductions and price hikes
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) index, which measures global food prices, is at its highest level ever driven by the war in Ukraine

Food security in countries already facing severe levels of hunger will drastically worsen as the war in Ukraine will diminish global grain supplies and drive up fuel prices.  As the world’s attention centers on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the IRC is calling on world leaders to renew their commitment to supporting people affected by crises across the globe.

Humanitarian needs in countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Somalia could rise as global grain exports are disrupted, food and fuel prices increase, and critical attention is diverted to Ukraine. Countries across East Africa, including Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, which are already facing the worst drought seen in decades, bring over 90 percent of its imported wheat from Russia and Ukraine. Yemen, which remains chronically underfunded, relies on  Ukraine and Russia for just over a fifth of its wheat consumption, providing a bleak picture of what families across this region could suffer if the situation is left unaddressed. As Ukraine’s crop production cycle this year is disrupted due to the conflict, countries heavily reliant on grain imports from Ukraine are likely to be impacted in the coming year. 

Bob Kitchen, Vice President of Emergencies at the IRC said,

“With more than five million people displaced as a result of the war in Ukraine, the international attention and funding directed towards the crisis is warranted and needed, but it is simultaneously highlighting where attention and funding has been waning elsewhere. In Afghanistan, where over half the population is experiencing extreme hunger, only 13% of the humanitarian response plan has been funded, whilst Yemen, now entering its eighth year of conflict, is facing the reality of having less than 30% of the total funds required for humanitarian assistance following the donor pledging conference earlier this month. This is woefully inadequate to address the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Yemen. If donors do not increase their pledges, we will see further cuts to critical humanitarian assistance which will cost lives. 

“Meanwhile, food insecurity across the Horn of Africa is precarious and is set to worsen as the Ukraine crisis threatens the reliance on grain the region has. Four consecutive seasons without adequate rainfall have seriously impacted crop harvests which millions of people across East Africa depend on for consumption and livelihoods. At least 4 million Somalis are projected to face emergency levels of hunger by June of this year, and coupled with failing crop production, disruptions in imports from Ukraine will further increase humanitarian need across East Africa.  In the Sahel, almost 30 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, with vulnerabilities and needs worsening as climate shocks, conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic continue to wreak havoc across the region.

“In January of this year, IRC released our Emergency Watchlist, highlighting the countries where humanitarian crises are most at risk of deterioration. The international attention and outpouring of support and funding directed at the Ukraine crisis is of course warranted - but only serves to highlight where attention and funding has been waning despite the severity of crisis

“People living in Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria, Syria, and other countries enduring vast and deteriorating humanitarian needs, must not be left behind. Donors must at the very least, commit to channeling 50% of total international aid to fragile and conflict affected states and using diplomatic means to find political solutions to conflicts driving humanitarian need.”

The IRC is working with partners in Poland to provide information services through an existing hotline, offering legal counseling and psychological support, and will facilitate access to services (through social workers, interpreters, and cultural assistants) to displaced people. With partners in Ukraine IRC is also providing evacuation services and essential items to those that have become displaced according to individual needs. This could include blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothes or cash assistance.

 

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.