World facing real risk of 'multiple famines' this year, UN chief warns

As the Group of Seven wealthy countries begins a three-day meeting in Germany, the UN has called for action to help tackle a global hunger crisis compounded by the war in Ukraine.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warns the world faces "catastrophe" because of the growing shortage of food around the globe. Source: AAP / Mary Altaffer

There is a "real risk" of multiple famines this year, UN chief Antonio Guterres says, urging ministers meeting on food security to take practical steps to stabilise food markets and reduce commodity price volatility.

"We face an unprecedented global hunger crisis," Mr Guterres told the meeting in Berlin via video. "The war in Ukraine has compounded problems that have been brewing for years: climate disruption; the COVID-19 pandemic; the deeply unequal recovery."
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More than 460,000 people in Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan are in famine conditions under the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) — a scale used by UN agencies, regional bodies and aid groups to determine food insecurity.

This is the step before a declaration of famine in a region.

Millions of people in 34 other countries are on the brink of famine, according to the IPC.

"There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022. And 2023 could be even worse," said Mr Guterres, calling mass hunger and starvation unacceptable in the 21st century.

The UN chief said there could be no effective solution to the crisis unless Ukraine and Russia, which produce about 29 per cent of global wheat exports, find a way to properly resume trade.
Shipments from Ukrainian ports have been halted by Russia's invasion of its neighbour. Moscow wants certain Western sanctions lifted in order to resume its grain and fertiliser exports.

The United Nations and Turkey are trying to broker a deal.

Mr Guterres did not elaborate on the talks, saying: "Public statements could hinder success."

He also asked ministers at the Berlin meeting to address a finance crisis in developing countries.

Meanwhile a senior official of the United Nations' food agency in Germany urged the Group of Seven (G7) countries to ramp up humanitarian aid to help tackle a global hunger crisis.
"Hunger can destabilise countries and is thus a key peace and security issue," German World Food Programme director Martin Frick told the country's news organisation RND, noting that current food price inflation running at over 25 per cent in 36 countries was a "time bomb".

He also reiterated that the World Food Program was probably going to get no more than half of the $US21.5 billion ($A30.9 billion) it needs this year, so more aid was needed.

Food security is expected to be on the agenda of the G7 meeting after the presidency launched a Global Alliance for Food Security in May to tackle hunger.

"There must be a common understanding that this crisis can no longer be solved by sticking plasters, but that the system must be changed," Mr Frick said.

The group begins a three-day meeting in Bavaria, Germany, on Sunday against the backdrop of a UN warning that the world faces "an unprecedented global hunger crisis" as commodity prices soar.

The G7 is an inter-governmental political forum consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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Published 26 June 2022 at 3:36pm
Source: Reuters