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Secretary-General António Guterres, today (19 May) told Security Council members that when they “fail to reach consensus, hungry people pay a high price.”

Addressing a Security Council meeting on conflict and food security, Guterres said, “when this Council debates conflict, you debate hunger. When you make decisions about peacekeeping and political missions, you make decisions about hunger. And when you fail to reach consensus, hungry people pay a high price.”

Noting that around the world, 49 million people in 43 countries are at emergency levels of hunger, just one step away from famine, he said, “today, the impact of conflict is amplified by the climate crisis and economic insecurity, which is compounded by the pandemic. As a result, decades of progress in the fight against hunger are being wiped out. I saw this with my own eyes during my visit to the Sahel two weeks ago.”

To help respond to this growing crisis, the Secretary-General announced that today we are releasing $30 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to meet urgent food security and nutrition needs in Niger, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso. This brings to almost $95 million the funding channelled through the Central Emergency Response Fund to the Sahel since the start of the year.

Guterres warned that the war in Ukraine is now adding a frightening new dimension to this picture of global hunger.

He said, “the war in Ukraine is now adding a frightening new dimension to this picture of global hunger. Russia’s invasion of its neighbour has effectively ended its food exports. Price increases of up to 30 percent for staple foods threaten people in countries across Africa and the Middle East, including Cameroon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.”

He also detailed four actions that countries can take now, to break the deadly dynamic of conflict and hunger: Investment in political solutions to end conflicts, including an end to the war in Ukraine; the Security Council’s critical role in demanding adherence to international humanitarian law; far greater coordination and leadership in dealing with the interconnected risks of food insecurity, energy and financing; and the full funding of humanitarian appeals, in which donors show the same generosity to all countries that they have shown towards Ukraine.

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, in his address to the Council said that failure by the Russian Federation to open up ports in the Odessa region “will be a declaration of war on global food security, and it will result in famine and destabilization and mass migration around the world.”

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Council that the Russian government “seems to believe that using food as a weapon will help accomplish what its invasion has not, to break the spirit of Ukrainian people.”

Blinken said “as a result of the Russian government's actions, some 20 million tons of grain sit unused, in Ukrainian silos as global food supplies dwindle, prices skyrocket, causing more around the world to experience food insecurity.

For his part, Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said, “you assert that allegedly we are preventing agricultural products from being taken out of Ukraine by sea. However, the truth is that it is Ukraine, and not Russia, that continues to hold in the ports of Mykolayiv, Kherson, Chornomorsk, Mariupol and Odessa 75 foreign vessels from 17 countries. And it is Ukraine that has also mined the waters.”