by Amira Kaba
As the world continues to struggle with the consequences of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the impact on global food shortages has come into sharp focus. With energy, fertilizer, and food prices rising by as much as 300% since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, African countries are now feeling the effects of the war on their food supplies. As the largest wheat importer in the world, Egypt is among the most affected African nations, with food insecurity compounded by the effects of climate change, which is costing the continent $7-$15 billion per year.
In Africa, the number of undernourished people is growing faster than anywhere else in the world, with the situation further exacerbated by long drought spells, locust invasions, and displacement caused by climate change and conflict. In the Horn of Africa, where the worst drought in 40 years has left at least 36 million people in dire need of food, medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières reports a 33% increase in children seeking treatment for illnesses related to acute hunger this year. The UN World Food Programme says that 22 million people are acutely food insecure and 5.1 million children are acutely malnourished in the region.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has called for governments to bolster agricultural production and invest in resilient food systems to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger. With 65% of the world’s arable land, Africa has the potential to feed the world’s population by 2050, but unlocking this potential requires a change in global food systems. African leaders, including Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, are calling for the continent to “feed itself” and scale up impactful agricultural programs.
In order to address the food crisis, the recent African Union Summit brought together leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss food sovereignty and resilience. A resolution was passed to establish presidential delivery councils to implement country-specific compacts and promote accountability. As Kenya’s William Ruto noted, “sixty years after independence, we should be discussing how agriculture is not just going to feed but create jobs.”
In conclusion, the conflict in Ukraine has had far-reaching consequences, with the escalating food prices adding to the growing hunger crisis across the globe, particularly in Africa. With food insecurity already exacerbated by climate change, the need for action is pressing, and it is up to governments and the international community to work together to address the root causes of the problem.
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