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Russia’s war in Ukraine has had a devastating effect on millions in the war-torn nation, but officials are sounding the alarm that there will be a “shattering” impact worldwide that could take a significantly deadlier toll.
Even before Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded his southern neighbor more than 275 million people around the world suffered from food scarcity.
After months of an export blockade by Russia’s navy along Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline, experts estimate another 50 million people could go hungry this year.
“Currently, 22 million tons of grain in Ukraine are in storage facilities,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday, issuing an ominous warning. “Hunger does not come alone. It is always accompanied by political chaos.”
UN World Food Program (WFP) chief, David Beasley said last September that food security had become an increasing problem during the coronavirus pandemic and 9 million people a year were dying of hunger.
The executive headed to Washington this month to urge lawmakers to address the growing crisis and to immediately fund programs that assist with food insecurity.
“Let me warn you clearly: if you do not respond now, we will see destabilization, mass starvation, and migration on an unprecedented scale, and at a far greater cost,” he told lawmakers in an appeal for supplemental funding.
Beasley said at least $5 billion would be needed from the U.S. alone to fund aid agencies like WFP that tackle food insecurity.
The U.S. pushed through a whopping $40 billion aid package to Kyiv last week that included $9 billion to assist Ukraine and other countries affected by the conflict which can be used to respond to food insecurity.
But a source on the Hill familiar with the talks told Fox News the effects of Russia’s war on food insecurity will likely be catastrophic.
“The effects on food prices across the world, in particular, Africa and North Africa are going to be earth-shattering. You’re going to see governments fall,” the source said, echoing the warning issued by Zelenskyy.
History has repeatedly shown that mass hunger leads to political instability.
Rising food prices across northern Africa and the Middle East directly contributed to social unrest which sparked the start of the 2010 Arab Spring uprisings.
Anti-government sentiment arose out of high unemployment rates, corrupt political systems and exuberant costs for loaves of bread.
Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood rose in popularity and long-serving autocrats like Eygpt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi were forcibly removed from office amid intense social unrest.
“Just look at the prices in stores now – their growth is a harbinger of what will surely affect people if nothing changes,” Zelenskyy said Friday. “Imagine the political chaos this could end with in certain regions.”
Ukraine and Russia produced 30 percent of the world’s wheat and 20 percent of its maize supply before the war broke out.
An economic advisor to Zelenskyy said if Russia opened up the Black Sea ports, Ukraine would have enough grain stored to meet domestic and international needs through 2022.
“Russia wanted to weaponize food,” Oleg Ustenko said in an interview, Thursday with Newsweek.
“They are playing different cards at one time on the same table: energy, food, plus they have their “military operation” on our land, and they’re destroying infrastructure, all our food storage,” he said. “If the fighting stopped, we could do that almost immediately because we have access to the main ports.”