The humanitarian fallout of the war in Ukraine continues to take a heavy toll globally, as the echoes of the conflict are heard far beyond its borders. One year on, its ripple effects are sounding in every corner of the planet, dramatically accelerating other crises around the world.

As the war in Ukraine has no end in sight and is likely to continue well into 2023, millions of lives are facing ever-increasing risk, with the ripple effects of the conflict manifesting globally through food supply chain disruptions, skyrocketing energy prices, and soaring inflation. From the people on the frontlines of the war, to remote communities dependent on Ukrainian wheat exports, the humanitarian needs driven by the conflict have not gone away, but continue to multiply.

94 percent of low income countries, including Syria which has just been hit by the deadly quake, are now battling skyrocketing inflation, fueled in part by the impact of the war on food and fuel prices. The top 20 countries at greatest risk of new humanitarian emergencies identified in the IRC’s 2023 Watchlist are seeing food price inflation at almost 40 percent, making it even harder for people to afford to feed their families, even if food is available in markets. IRC teams report that communities which have welcomed most Ukrainian refugees also increasingly require support amid spiking housing and food prices.

The shock waves in global energy markets are dramatically felt in the lower and middle income economies which have largely not yet recovered from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The estimates show that 70 million people who recently gained access to electricity can no longer afford it. In countries like Moldova, the environmental impacts go hand in hand with the socio-economic echoes of the war, as people are returning to coal and firewood as a heating source.

The impact of the war on commodity and fuel prices has also contributed to the global food security crisis. A record 349 million people across 79 countries are estimated to experience acute food insecurity in 2023. Critically, as communities in East Africa continue to grapple with extreme hunger, the Black Sea Grain Initiative is set to expire in March, right after one year of the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. The renewed blockade could impede the import of 80 percent of grain coming  from the region to the African continent, with countries like Somalia tethering on the brink of famine. 

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said:

“The compounding humanitarian needs in Ukraine are only half of the story. The other half is how the ripple effects of the war are fueling humanitarian needs worldwide, as the global impacts of this war call for a truly global course of action.

“The international response to the war in Ukraine is a testament to the power of political will to serve a crisis-affected population, both in terms of funding and extended protection mechanisms. It is a proof of what can be achieved for the 100 million people displaced worldwide if the responsibility for managing global displacement is shared.

“The 2020s will come to be known as the decade of war in Ukraine and its consequences, and teach us some major lessons: about the power of political mobilization and solidarity in the face of humanitarian need, the inextricably connected nature and ripple effects of global crises, and the grim outcomes of impunity without accountability.  The way we respond to these lessons will set the standard for responding to all humanitarian crises for the next decade. 

“Firstly, we need to break the vicious cycle of global crisis by fixing the international response to the hunger crisis. Secondly, the international community needs to scale up its commitments to protect civilians in conflict and combat impunity for mass atrocities. Thirdly, humanitarian aid needs to be channeled through a people-first strategy that works with NGOs and local civil society groups to deliver aid directly to the frontlines of the conflict.”

Shashwat Saraf, IRC’s East Africa Regional Emergency Director, said:

“The Black Sea Grain Initiative was a valuable step to restarting shipments of Ukrainian grain to hunger affected countries.  But a closer analysis shows that so far just 10 percent of grain exported through the initiative has gone to five low income countries - Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen most in need of it, whereas Spain has received double the amount. 

“It is critical to maintain the Black Sea Grain Initiative and continuously renew shipments, but it is essential the grain goes to where it is needed most - to go to the six countries most at risk of famine. Maintaining the initiative and renewing the agreement this coming March, but prioritizing the export destinations will help limit the ripple effects of the war on other humanitarian crises around the world.”

Notes to editors: