Secretary-General Warns of Unprecedented Global Hunger Crisis, with 276 Million Facing Food Insecurity, Calling for Export Recovery, Debt Relief
Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the ministerial conference titled “Response to the Multiple Challenges to Global Food Security”, in Berlin today:
I thank Germany for convening this meeting, and Chancellor [Olaf] Scholz as a Champion of the Global Crisis Response Group on food, energy and finance.
We face an unprecedented global hunger crisis. The war in Ukraine has compounded problems that have been brewing for years: climate disruption; the COVID-19 pandemic; the deeply unequal recovery. This was already apparent when I visited the Sahel region of Africa last month. Leaders warned me that unless we act now, a dangerous situation could turn into a catastrophe. The Horn of Africa is also suffering its worst drought in decades.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), in the past two years, the number of severely food‑insecure people around the world has more than doubled to 276 million. There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022.
And 2023 could be even worse. The main costs to farmers are fertilizers and energy. Fertilizer prices have risen by more than half in the past year, and energy prices by more than two thirds. All harvests will be hit, including rice and corn — affecting billions of people across Asia, Africa and the Americas. This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage. No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.
Humanitarian support is essential, but it is not enough. Because this is not just a food crisis. It goes beyond food and requires a coordinated multilateral approach, with multidimensional solutions.
First, there can be no effective solution to the global food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by Russia, into world markets — despite the war. I have been in intense contact with Ukraine, Russian Federation, Turkey, United States, European Union and others on this issue.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Rebeca Grynspan, and my humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, are continuing the talks, aiming to achieve a package deal that will enable Ukraine to export food, not only by land, but through the Black Sea, and will bring Russian food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions. I will not go into details because public statements could hinder success in the talks that are taking place.
Second, solving the food crisis requires solving the finance crisis in the developing world. Hundreds of millions of people on the poverty line have been crushed by this crisis — informal workers who are mainly women; small holder farmers; micro and small business owners; people with disabilities.
Developed countries and international financial institutions need to make resources available to help Governments support and invest in their people, leaving no one behind.
Developing countries that face debt default must have access to effective debt relief to keep their economies afloat and their people thriving. Financial institutions must find the flexibility and understanding to get resources where they are needed most. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) proposal for a Food Import Financing Facility could help the most exposed countries meet their immediate needs.
Today’s discussions are an opportunity for concrete steps to stabilize global food markets and tackle the volatility of commodity prices. We need strong political and private sector leadership for a coordinated multilateral response. We cannot accept mass hunger and starvation in the twenty-first century. Thank you.