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UN chief ‘hopes’ for grain deal with Ukraine to help with food crisis
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UNITED NATIONS – As global hunger levels hit a new high, the UN chief said on Wednesday he was in “intense contact” with Russia and other key countries in hopes of an agreement allowing the export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports and guaranteeing Russian food and food. fertilizers have unlimited access to world markets.

But Secretary General Antonio Guterres told a ministerial meeting on the escalating food security crisis, which has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, that “there is still a long way to go”.

“The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill from all parties to reach a comprehensive agreement,” he said. “I won’t go into details because public statements could undermine the chances of success.”

Guterres said global hunger levels “have reached a new high”, with the number of people facing severe food insecurity doubling in just two years, from 135 million before the pandemic to 276 million today. He said more than 500,000 people were living in starvation conditions, an increase of more than 500% since 2016.

He said Ukraine and Russia together produce almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley and half of its sunflower oil, while Russia and its ally Belarus are the second and third largest producers. potash, a key ingredient in fertilizers.

“There is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating food production from Ukraine, as well as food and fertilizers produced by Russia and Belarus, into world markets, despite the war,” he said. he declared.

Secretary-General says Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine “amplifies and accelerates” drivers of global food insecurity and hunger – climate change, COVID-19 and inequality .

The conflict has closed Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, halting food exports to many developing countries, Guterres said during his recent visit to Africa’s Sahel region he met families who didn’t know where their next meal would come from.

David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Programme, warned that “failure to open ports will be a declaration of war on global food security, leading to starvation and destabilization of nations as well as mass migration through need”.

“It’s not just about Ukraine,” he said. “This is the poorest of the poor in the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak. So I ask (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin, if you have a little heart, please to open these ports…so that we can feed the poorest of the poor and avert starvation, as we have done in the past when the nations in this room mobilized together.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who chaired the US-convened meeting, said the world was facing “the greatest global food security crisis of our time”.

Blinken said that between 2016 and 2021, the number of people living in acute food insecurity — where their inability to eat adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in “immediate danger” — rose from 108 million to 161. million.

The top US diplomat has urged countries to make significant new contributions to humanitarian organizations and agencies tackling food insecurity, and he called on countries with large grain and fertilizer reserves to also come forward quickly. .

“Governments and international organizations can also come together to compel the Russian Federation to create corridors so that food and other vital supplies can safely leave Ukraine by land or sea,” Blinken said. . “There are approximately 22 million tons of grain currently sitting in silos in Ukraine, food that could immediately be used to help those in need if it could just get out of the country.”

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