Bread for the World President and Chief Executive Officer Rev. Eugene Cho warns of an impending global food crisis from Russia's continuous unprovoked violence against Ukraine, one of the world's number one producer of wheat.
Cho disclosed in an interview with Religion News Services the consequences the Russia-Ukraine conflict has on the global community based on his own family's experience during the Korean War. Cho raised that the war will gravely affect food prices and distribution in the face of rising hunger from the collapse of economies due to the pandemic.
"We should be rightly concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and we should be advocating for Ukraine. I also want to step back and share with folks that there are some tremendous humanitarian crises in other parts of the world that haven't quite captured the consciousness of the world. Right now, 98% of the population of Afghanistan does not have enough to eat. One million children under the age of 5 could die from malnutrition by the end of the year. In Yemen and other places around the world, food prices have doubled," Cho stressed.
The United Nation's World Food Program similarly warned on Tuesday that the war will bring widespread food insecurity. The agency said the war has prevented 19 of Ukraine's 24 oblasts or regions from agricultural activities. The UN WFP projected that food shortages will be experienced immediately or in the next three months by 40% of Ukraine's agricultural terrain.
The shortage involves livestock and vegetable production encompassing tens of thousands of smallholder farmers who decided to stay behind amidst the Russian-Ukraine conflict. The UN FAO has already appealed for $50 million in agricultural relief, which remains 90% unfunded. Though they have already provided 740 tonnes of urgently-needed seeds for planting to more than 14,600 farming families in Ukraine.
Bread for the World has also put up an emergency food aid of $3.8 billion for Ukraine to prevent the food shortage. Cho explained that Russia and Ukraine make up a total of 29% of global wheat exports besides topping production for fertilizer and fuel. This would obviously create a domino effect through the increase of these products' pricing to the rest of the industries connected to it in the global food system.
Yet this does not include the humanitarian needs of the four million Ukrainians who have left their country and sought shelter in nearby nations. Cho said organizations and communities are demanded to respond to the immediate humanitarian needs of those who were displaced by the war.
Last week, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees reported that nations sheltering refugees from Ukraine are already experiencing great pressure on resources to sustain their needs. Romania had to relocate refugees from Moldova, which can only maintain less than half or 110,000 of the 300,000 refugees who fled to their territory.
A similar situation was experienced in the small Polish town of Medyka where 1.8 million refugees have fled despite their own need for financial assistance. NBC News reported that 4 million Ukrainians have already fled their country, as of date, due to the intensified shelling of the Russian military.
In the face of all the seemingly-overwhelming things happening in the world, Cho underscored that there is hope.
"There are limits to what we can do in Ukraine, so there is a sense of helplessness. But we're not a hopeless people. We have got to come together and continue to act with faith, empathy and solidarity and keep doing what we feel like we can do even within our limitations. I truly believe that as Scripture tells us in the Book of Hebrews, we can cling to this unwavering hope, despite some of the challenges we see in our world," Cho emphasized.