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Blinken urges countries to step up aid amid global food crisis
By Leigh Hartman
August 8, 2023

Blinken urges countries to step up aid amid global food crisis

Speaking at the United Nations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called conflict the largest driver of food insecurity. Above, a person surveys a farm storage facility in Ukraine that was destroyed by Russia’s forces July 21. (© Libkos/AP)


The United States is providing $362 million in additional assistance to a dozen nations amid a growing global food crisis, worsened by ongoing conflicts around the world.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the new funding at the United Nations August 3, noting the aid will rush food to pregnant women in 11 African nations and Haiti. And he urged countries to work together to address the root causes of the global food crisis.

“Hunger and conflict are inexorably linked,” Blinken said, speaking at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Famine and Conflict-Induced Global Food Insecurity. Scarce resources heighten tensions, Blinken said, while warring parties weaponize food. “Indeed, conflict is the largest driver of food insecurity, with violence and unrest pushing 117 million people into extreme deprivation last year,” he added.

The United States has provided more than $17.5 billion in assistance to fight the global food crisis since January 2021. But he called on governments, the private sector and other donors to “dig deeper” to address immediate food security needs and the growing demands of a global population that could reach 10 billion by 2050.

Blinken cited conflicts in Burma and Yemen as leaving people severely undernourished, and noted that Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Somalia could soon face famine if the world does not act.

Blinken also noted that Russia’s war against Ukraine, its withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative and recent attacks on Ukrainian ports and food supplies are major contributors to the food crisis.

He urged countries to join the nations calling on Russia to recommit to the grain initiative that had safely moved more than 32 million metric tons of Ukrainian agricultural exports around the world, including to food-insecure countries such as Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan. In July, Russia walked away from the deal that had exported enough wheat for 18 billion loaves of bread.

“Every member of this council, every member of the United Nations, should tell Moscow: Enough,” Blinken said. “Enough using the Black Sea as blackmail; enough treating the world’s most vulnerable people as leverage.”

The United States is also working to make food systems more resilient in the face of climate change. In July, the United States approved $100 million in support through the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS). The partnership is promoting healthy, fertile soils in Africa that can retain water and deliver vital nutrients to crops, even in drought.

VACS is also working with global partners to identify native African crops that are resilient to climate change and to breed and scale those crops for broader production. “This focus on the quality of the seeds and the quality of the soil can have a powerful impact on sustainable agricultural productivity throughout Africa,” Blinken said.

“The United States will continue to do our part, but this is by definition a global challenge,” Blinken added. “It demands global resources. And we’ll be looking to governments, to companies, to philanthropies, to help us continue to improve nutrition and invest in sustainable and resilient food systems.”