Ukraine war: 22m Nigerians, Sahel Africans starving



WFP seeks $777m for 6 month intervention programme

Sopuruchi Onwuka

Millions of people facing starvation in Sahel Africa and Nigeria will need urgent supply to avert mass undernourishment as the prices for food commodities like grains and vegetable oils reached their highest levels because of the raging war between two top global food exporters.


The Oracle Today reports that tens of million tons of grains are prevented from reaching the global commodity markets by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Executive director of the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), David Beasley, told the U.N. Security Council that food prices are already skyrocketing across the world where a third of the population relies on wheat as a dietary staple.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Ukraine produces about 20 percent of the world’s high-grade wheat and seven percent of all wheat. The WFP buys half of its grain from Ukraine. And since the war began, Ukraine’s most productive agricultural regions have come under Russian control.

Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy

As huge supply gaps hit the global food commodity markets with price jumps, Senior researcher for WFP for West and Central Africa, Sib Ollo, declared weekend that the agency has appealed for $777 million to meet the needs of 22 million people in the Sahel region and Nigeria over six months.

He nearly 22 million people in the region at risk of food insecurity, explaining that six million children and 16 million people in urban areas of Nigeria and Sahel region face a sharp deterioration of the food and nutrition.

And the Deputy Director in charge of Markets and Trade Division of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Josef Schmidhuber, also declared that the prevailing high cost of food and associated threats of hunger require urgent action.

The Oracle Today reports that Nigeria’s rising debt crisis, falling oil output and related foreign exchange income, and steep depreciation of local currency entail that cost of imported commodities rises sharply beyond the reach of the pervasive poor.

Nigeria is also suffering acute food production shortages as insecurity from insurgents, terrorists and bandits stall rural farming which accounts for over 70 percent of all agricultural output of the country. The situation has impoverished rural communities, created internal refugees, exacerbated hunger and worsened the country’s dependence on imported food commodities.

Women ait for food at the Bakassi camp in Maiduguri

Schmidhuber stated that FAO was developing a proposal for a mechanism to alleviate the import costs for the poorest countries, adding that food-importing countries must commit significant investments in local production to be eligible for import credits that would help soften the hunger blow.

The United Nations weekend pointed out that that Russia’s war in Ukraine and the “massive supply disruptions” have pushed prices for food commodities to highest levels and threatened millions of people in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere with hunger and malnourishment.

The two countries at war, The Oracle Today reports, are world food baskets accounting for production of significant proportion of global supply of grains. The FAO stated that Russia and Ukraine account for around 30% and 20% of global wheat and corn exports, respectively. It added that Ukraine is the world’s leading exporter of sunflower oil, and Russia is the second.

Dmytro Grushetskyi, Ukrainian who runs an agricultural data company that monitors harvests in Ukraine, Russia and neighboring countries stated in a media report that the problem has nothing to do with availability of the country’s agricultural commodity but much to do with evacuation to the market.

Even with a calamitous war about to enter its seventh week, he said, Ukraine is on track to harvest most of its vast grain fields this summer and storage concerns are high as the country already has 30 million tons of wheat that occupy existing storage.

Our coverage of the war in Ukraine shows that all of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports are closed off to the world by a Russian blockade that includes floating mines. And wheat exported by train is just a tiny fraction of what is exported by sea.

FAO said the war in Ukraine was largely responsible for the 17.1% rise in the price of grains, including wheat and others like oats, barley and corn.

It explained that the war has caused disruptions in the food supply chains from the world’s biggest sources, afflicting countries in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia with acute food shortages.

The effect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has also rippled beyond the key grain producers to impart negatively on other global grain factors in America and Europe, exacerbating high energy cost for industrial farmers.

The war’s knock-on effects on energy and fertilizer supplies are already rippling through agricultural supply chains, raising prices of basic goods for nearly everyone on the planet.

Other large grain producers like the United States, Canada, France, Australia and Argentina that can quickly ramp up production to fill in the gaps all face issues of climbing fuel and fertilizer costs, drought and supply chain disruptions.

Russia, which has come under the rain of trade sanctions for invading Ukraine, has already slashed its wheat prices to make its product more attractive on the global market. But Russian transactions are currently crippled by its exclusion from the global SWIFT payment platform, making it difficult for banks to raise payment instruments to facilitate transactions. And dealing with Russia also comes with reputational risks for trading and shipping companies that comply with international sanctions against the country.

Thus, the world’s largest food commodity exports are trapped inside storage houses in Ukraine by military blockade; and in Russia by international trade and diplomatic sanctions. The problem has led to an enormous spike in grain prices and exacerbates hunger around the world, the WFP declared.

In the Sahel region of Central and West Africa, the FAO stated, the disruptions from the war have added to an already precarious food situation caused by COVID-19, conflicts, poor weather and other structural problems.

Sib Ollo told reporters that here has been a sharp deterioration of the food and nutrition security in the region, saying 6 million children are malnourished and nearly 16 million people in urban areas are at risk of food insecurity.

He said farmers would not easily access fertilizers produced in the Black Sea region, adding that the cost of fertilizers has increased by almost 30% in many places of this region due to the supply disruption that we see provoked by a crisis in Ukraine.

Russia is a leading global exporter of fertilizer, the critical component in meeting the FAO’s mandate on food-importing countries to boost their own agricultural productivity and qualify for import credits to help soften the blow.

Whereas the FAO’s intervention mechanisms target making import dependent countries develop internal capacity for self help, immediate solutions lie in brokering peace deals to allow evacuation of food exports to starving populations of the world.

“If we are talking about global food security, well, that is already a fragile system. Climate change, supply chain chaos, and now this war — in six months’ time, poor people will starve to death. I don’t think the world understands that yet. For their own sakes, movement of food through the Black Sea must be negotiated,”Grushetskyi said.