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How Wars in the Middle East and Ukraine Fuel the Global Food Crisis

With all first-world eyes focused on resolving the Israel-Hamas and Russo-Ukrainian wars, just what will happen to those nations struggling to feed their people in 2023?

Article Written by Sara Chan

Additional story research provided by Michael Laff


Food is an essential, but often scarce, resource in many parts of the world. Increasing numbers of natural disasters due to climate change and supply disruptions from COVID-19 have only exacerbated the problem.


But with all first-world countries now laser-focused on recent developments in the Middle East and Ukraine, armed conflicts in other areas of the world are now able to fly under the radar of powerful countries who are no longer watching or willing to intervene.


Local armed conflicts in several undeveloped nations continue to contribute to the global food crisis and increase hunger among vulnerable populations. Civilians are often primary victims, forced to leave their homes to seek food and shelter.

In fact, conflict was the primary driver of hunger for 99 million people in 23 countries, according to a 2022 Action Against Hunger fact sheet.

Sadly, many local conflicts are lasting a number of years without additional help from more developed nations. Some of the most widely known conflicts are over coveted natural resources including:

  • Diamonds, gold, and uranium in the Central African Republic.

  • Natural gas and mining reserves in Mozambique.

  • Diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, cassiterite, and coltan in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Unfortunately, the global number of local conflicts is rising compared to only 5 years ago.

For example, Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine has had ripple effects across multiple nations.


Before the war, Ukraine produced enough food to feed 400 million people per year, many in Africa. That won’t happen this year, although in August shipments of Ukrainian grain finally began to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports destined for Africa.


Since the start of the war, the United States has provided over $5.7 billion in emergency food security assistance globally, including to African countries suffering from extreme hunger and malnutrition due in large part to conflicts in their home countries.


But there are other global conflicts that threaten food security for millions more.


Ethiopia

Fighting in northern Ethiopia’s Afar, Amhara and Tigray regions and the drought in eastern and southern Ethiopia have driven many innocent civilians to the brink of starvation.


The conflict in the country’s Tigray region between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front began in November 2020 and subsequently spread to the Afar and Amhara regions. More than 90% of Tigray residents require humanitarian assistance. Nearly 2.5 million people across all three regions have fled their homes.

As a result, more than 9 million Ethiopians in the north now face severe hunger.

In July the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced it had provided more than $668 million in humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia in fiscal 2022. That includes funding to provide nutritional supplements to help 1.6 million malnourished children and the 4.4 million people who lack access to drinking water.

Somalia

Since 1991, Somalia has experienced chronic food insecurity, recurring droughts and floods and widespread violence, including those instigated by the al-Shabaab terrorist group.


This little known terrorist group targets civilians in hotels and restaurants who are perceived to have ties to the government. In addition, the U.N. estimates that nearly 3 million Somalis were forced to leave their homes and are internally displaced due to conflict and the effects of climate change.


Thus far in fiscal year 2022, the U.S. government has provided nearly $707 million in humanitarian assistance for Somalia, making it that nation’s largest humanitarian donor.

Yemen

Eight years of war between pro-government forces and Houthi rebels bestowed on Yemen one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The conflict and resulting economic collapse has left more than two-thirds of Yemen’s population in need of humanitarian assistance, including 19 million facing hunger.


Luckily, a U.N.-negotiated truce was extended in August 2023.


However, more than 377,000 Yemenis have died as a result of the civil war, according to a 2021 U.N. report. The conflict has displaced more than 4 million people, mainly women and children. Plus more than 2 million children in Yemen face deadly malnutrition.


More importantly, Yemen relies upon imports for 90% of its grain and other food sources. According to the World Food Programme, 46% of wheat imports were from Russia and Ukraine, and a large number of specialized food products are also imported from areas of the Middle east.


In August, with USAID support, the WFP transported 37,000 metric tons of wheat from Ukraine — a shipment that fed 4 million Yemenis. This was the first shipment of wheat from Ukraine to Yemen since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.


Finally, in 2022, the United States has provided more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. However, it is unknown what level of assistance the U.S. will be able to provide in 2023.

So, what can we do to help ease the pain of the global food crisis? The key is for all of us to remember food insecurity challenges exist and to spread awareness any way we can. America's history of financial assistance to combat global hunger is relied upon by millions around the globe. Continuing that economic assistance is one of the best ways to ensure (and encourage) peace around the world.



What are your thoughts? Please share this article with your comments.

Sara Chan (she/her) is a contributing writer for TheGenZPost.com and a full-time political consultant based in Los Angeles, CA. She received her B.A. in Political Science from UC Berkeley and is currently working towards her Master's Degree in in Global Studies & International Relations from Northeastern University. She is a proud member of the California Democratic Party and helps local politicians around the country craft bespoke campaign messaging and concise platforms that appeal to voters of various backgrounds.

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