The food security picture heading into 2024 looks especially ominous, making it harder to avoid the rising threat of famine and significant number of deaths from hunger and malnutrition next year. The Russian withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a critical component in alleviating pressure on global food prices, has exacerbated the effects of climate change, the withdrawal of humanitarian funding, and the dire impact of conflicts in some of the world's most climate-vulnerable countries.

In Ukraine alone, a prolonged summer season and persistent high temperatures have created adverse conditions for the forthcoming winter grain sowing. Ongoing destruction of grain silos, bombardment of Ukrainian ports and civilian infrastructure, as well as widespread landmine contamination, compounded by the detrimental effect of export bans, make it virtually impossible for the farmers to recover and prepare for the upcoming winter.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that in the long-term, reductions in Ukrainian grain exports will likely contribute to higher prices, a trend translating into the risk of food insecurity. These trends will also have knock-on impacts for the World Food Program’s (WFP) procurement pipeline and thus affect aid operations in some of the countries most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. Over the last year, Ukraine supplied 80% of the wheat procured for WFP operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen; the collapse of the Grain Deal means wheat and grain need to be procured elsewhere on a market where prices are set to rise.

Andrii, a farmer from Kherson, Ukraine, told the IRC:

“My life has changed drastically. Before the war, I had a successful business with plans for a stable future. Now, due to the armed conflict, 95% of our assets have either been stolen or destroyed. 

“Anything that could be stolen was stolen, and anything that couldn't be stolen was destroyed. One of the biggest problems now is the presence of unexploded mines in the fields, preventing us from sowing this year. There are people who get injured daily, and sadly, some even lose their lives.

[Just two weeks ago, an American journalist visited me, and he compared the situation in Ukrainian agriculture to Holodomor. In essence, I agree with him.]  Everything that is happening with agriculture in Ukraine is another Holodomor, not for Ukraine, but for the world, for Africa, and for all buyers of Ukrainian grain. This crisis has the potential to lead to famine worldwide.”

The IRC reiterates its plea to reinvigorate global commitments to the revival of the Black Sea Grain Deal Initiative and scale up efforts to ensure that grain can be safely, predictably, and quickly exported from Ukrainian ports.

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