The United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on world leaders to end food, energy and finance crises saying 1.6 billion people in 94 countries were exposed to at least one dimension of the problems.
Guterres made the call on Wednesday at a news conference at the UN headquarters in New York to launch the latest report on the conflict’s impacts on food security, energy and financing.
He said the ripple effects from the war in Ukraine have generated a severe cost-of-living crisis which no country or community can escape.
An estimated 1.6 billion people in 94 countries are exposed to at least one dimension of the crisis with around 1.2 billion living in “perfect-storm” countries severely vulnerable to all three dimensions, the policy brief by the Global Crisis Response Group (GCRG) has revealed.
The report calls for stabilising record-high food and fuel prices, implementing social safety nets and increasing financial support to developing countries.
The UN chief said the message was clear and insistent: “countries must act now to save lives and livelihoods.
“Three months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we face a new reality,” he told journalists.
“For those on the ground, every day brings new bloodshed and suffering. And for people around the world, the war is threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake.”
Furthermore, the crisis is amplifying the consequences of other challenges confronting countries, such as the climate emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic and inequalities in resources for post-pandemic recovery.
The increase in hunger since the start of the war could be higher and more widespread, according to the report.
The number of severely food insecure people doubled from 135 million prior to the pandemic to 276 million in just two years. The ripple effects of the war could push this number to 323 million.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Chief, Ms Rebeca Grynspan, who co-leads the GCRG stream on finance presented the report.
She said the world was in “a race against time” and inaction would be more costly than finding solutions.
The cost-of-living crisis could spark a “cycle of social unrest leading to political instability,” she warned.
Some 60 per cent of workers worldwide have already lower real incomes than before the pandemic, meaning families are having to choose whether to skip meals, keep children in school, or pay medical bills, for example.
“The current food crisis may rapidly turn into a food catastrophe of global proportions in 2023,” Grynspan said.
Higher energy costs and trade restrictions on the fertiliser supply from the Black Sea region have caused fertiliser prices to rise even faster than food prices.
She said if the war continues and grain and fertiliser high prices persist into the next planting season shortages of other basic foods such as rice will occur, affecting billions more worldwide.