• Yemen, which has endured 7 years of conflict that has left over 19 million people in need of food assistance, relies on Ukraine or Russia for 46% of its wheat imports.
  • Meanwhile, over 7 million children under the age of five are suffering acute malnutrition in the Sahel region, of which 30-50% of wheat imports also come from Ukraine or Russia. 
  • Over 13 million are already at risk of acute food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. Somalia could be worst impacted by the conflict in Ukraine, depending on the region for 92% of its wheat imports.
  • As ministers gather for the Global Food Security Ministerial hosted by the USG and the UN Security Council open debate on food security and Ukraine, it's vital the global community urgently mitigate shockwaves of the conflict in food insecure contexts.

With 47 million more people projected to experience acute hunger in 2022 due to the war in Ukraine, up from 276 million people pre-conflict, new analysis by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) points to the ‘hunger fallout’ from the war and the threats to global food security especially in the world’s crisis zones. 

Following discussion by G7 Foreign Ministers on the impact of the war in Ukraine on global food security and plans for a “Global Alliance for Food Security” on the Development Ministers’ agenda this week, the G7 have a unique and immediate opportunity to combat existing and worsening hunger crises worldwide. Anemic donor funding and growing shocks to wheat and fuel supply matched with political inaction in the face of violations of the rules-based international system cause millions to go without food and other vital essentials. If the right political decisions are not made and enough funding is not immediately allocated to hunger crises in countries and regions such as the Sahel, Afghanistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa, failure to act will cost countless lives. For example, the humanitarian response plan for Somalia, where over 6 million people are acutely food insecure, remains significantly underfunded. Likewise, in Yemen, where the number of people suffering famine-like conditions is set to rise five-fold in 2022, the humanitarian appeal remains more than US$3 billion underfunded.

The Sahel region is facing its worst food crisis in a decade, with 41 million people expected to experience acute hunger in June 2022. Seven million children under the age of five are suffering acute malnutrition. Conflicts and displacement have led to loss of livelihoods and abandonment of cropland. Combined with recent droughts, these factors result in poor food production, compounded by the region’s dependency on 30-50% of its wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia.

The Horn of Africa is facing the driest recorded conditions in over 40 years - one of the worst climate-induced emergencies seen in recent history. Over 13 million people are already at risk of acute food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, the latter imports 92% of its wheat from Ukraine alone.  

In Yemen 19.1 million people are currently requiring food assistance, an increase of 2.9 million since last year. The country imports over 90% of its cereals and grains, depending on Ukraine and Russia for almost half of its imported wheat (46.3%).

In Afghanistan 20 million people suffer acute food insecurity, with nearly 6.6 million suffering emergency levels of hunger, just one phase away from famine conditions. Severe drought has devastated agricultural production, while COVID-19 has decimated employment opportunities, compounding years of conflict induced poverty and displacement. Since August 2021, this acute hunger crisis has been accelerated and driven to new extremes by efforts to isolate the Taliban which have furthered economic collapse.

A new policy brief published by the IRC highlights the role the G7 can play to prevent the Ukraine crisis from compounding existing hunger crises across the globe and outlines the following key recommendations: 

  1. Don’t forget other crises and increase funding to prevent acute hunger and famine: Increase overall aid budgets in line with the target of investing 0.7 percent of GNI in international aid. Existing funding commitments for humanitarian crises must be honored by fulfilling 2022 humanitarian response plans and addressing the funding shortfalls of humanitarian agencies affected by rising food prices. Anticipatory financing must also be provided to humanitarian contexts known to be dependent on Ukrainian and Russian food products. 
  2. Scale up proven interventions to mitigate the hunger fallout from the war in Ukraine: Support for long-term and inclusive social protection programmes and safety nets in countries affected by fragility, conflict and displacement must be increased to protect vulnerable populations from price spikes, while enhancing linkages between social protection and poverty reduction, food security and nutrition outcomes.
  3. Fix the broken food system: G7 members should move ahead with the establishment of a global alliance for food security and a “Global Shield” against climate risks as proposed by Germany, working closely with vulnerable and affected countries to ensure needs are met. Priority should be given to investments in agroecological approaches to reduce dependency on food imports. 
  4. Strengthen humanitarian diplomacy and end impunity: G7 members should strengthen commitments to International Humanitarian Law and ensure investigation and accountability for violations. States should support the suspension of the veto in the UN Security Council in cases of mass atrocities so that the Council can effectively respond to the world’s most severe crises.

Through swift and coordinated action, the G7 can save lives, build the resilience of crisis-affected communities and preempt future shocks. Priority actions must include combining humanitarian aid - focused on cash transfers and gender- and climate-sensitive interventions addressing malnutrition and food security - with anticipatory approaches and diplomatic efforts to ensure humanitarian access and the upholding of international humanitarian law.

David Miliband, President and CEO International Rescue Committee, comments: “The war in Ukraine is only exacerbating crisis-level food insecurity in some of the world’s poorest countries. Millions already pushed to the brink by COVID-19, conflict and climate change now face famine -all before the eyes of international donors. G7 ministers have the unique opportunity to save lives and preempt potential future shocks through a meaningful and coordinated response to this unprecedented global hunger crisis. The war in Ukraine already represents the capstone in our global age of impunity. The IRC has warned that the global system for protecting civilians, preventing conflict and meeting growing humanitarian need is failing. The worst outcome would be standing by in the coming weeks as the world’s most vulnerable pay the price with their lives.”

Ralph Achenbach, IRC Deutschland Managing Director, says: “41 million people in the Sahel and West Africa region, 13 million people in the Horn of Africa, 19 million people in Yemen, 20 million people in Afghanistan - more than 90 million people are facing hunger. The scale of the humanitarian needs could not be clearer. The IRC welcomes German G7 leadership initiatives to proactively manage crises with proposals for an ‘Global Alliance for Food Security’ and a new ‘Global Shield’ against climate risks. As the new government has highlighted food security as a main issue in the coalition agreement, the G7 presidency provides the German government a chance to put their money where their mouth is and initiate ‘Zeitenwende’ in fighting hunger on the global stage.”