Impact of crisis in Ukraine on global food supplies threatens to plunge millions into starvation

11 Apr 2022 by World Vision
Impact of crisis in Ukraine on global food supplies threatens to plunge millions into starvation

World Vision New Zealand warns that the crisis in Ukraine and the downstream impact on world wheat supplies threatens to plunge millions into an acute hunger crisis.

Ukraine and Russia are responsible for nearly a third of the world’s wheat exports, but the conflict has curtailed the planting season and caused a spike in the global price of wheat.

World Vision New Zealand National Director, Grant Bayldon, fears that the reduced wheat supply and its soaring price will severely impact emergency food supplies.

“Wheat is a staple in diets around the world and is a key component in emergency food rations. Any crash in wheat supply will have a devastating impact on millions of families in Afghanistan, Syria, and Eastern Africa who are reliant on emergency supplies to feed their children,” he says.

“We are already hearing stories of mothers in East Africa who are checking the pulse of their babies during the night to make sure they are still alive. What a devastating and disturbing ritual to have to perform each night.”

Bayldon says World Vision partners with the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver food aid in countries grappling with starvation and malnutrition, but the WFP gets half its grains from Ukraine and Russia.

“The crisis in Ukraine is rippling beyond Europe in a catastrophic way. We are concerned that the food price rises will mean more and more people in vulnerable countries will struggle to buy food and will be pushed to the brink of starvation,” he says.

In seven East African countries alone, more than 28 million people currently need humanitarian assistance due to varying levels of food insecurity. Around one in five of these are children who are suffering high levels of malnutrition.

“Starvation is devastating. We know that mothers in conflict zones often say to us that the hardest thing for them to bear is not the violence, but it is watching their children slowly perish from starvation while they are helpless to do anything. This is the brutal experience for many mothers in Eastern Africa right now,” he says.

The wheat shortages and price spikes caused by the crisis in Ukraine, combined with conflict, COVID-19 and the climate crisis mean the situation in Eastern Africa is reaching a tipping point.

A severe drought in Eastern Africa is making the hunger crisis in the region even worse. Livestock are dying, and parents are pulling children out of school because they cannot afford the fees. The impact on livelihoods also increases the risk of forced child marriage.

Bayldon says the crises in Eastern Africa are receiving limited attention, but there is so much that can be done to support children and families in the region if programmes are appropriately funded.

“We can bring hope with water, cash transfers, and food distributions, but the international response is drastically under-funded and we urgently need to bolster our work in Eastern Africa,” he says.

World Vision’s Eastern Africa Hunger Emergency Response comprises Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. World Vision aims to reach approximately 7.1 million people, including 3.4 million children, and needs an additional US$77 million to extend its response.

The region is not alone in its hunger crisis warning. Globally, more than 45 million people at risk of starvation or vulnerable to famine or famine-like conditions.


For further information, please contact: Kirsty Jones or Chloe Irvine on 022 340 4271.