U.S. supports countries amid Putin’s food crisis

Putin’s war has destroyed farms in Ukraine and blocked exports of grain and wheat. A farmer surveys damage April 23. (© Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is worsening food crises in countries including Kenya, where a herder walks among the carcasses of goats dead of starvation in 2021. (© Brian Inganga/AP Images)

Russia’s war in Ukraine has resulted in more than 5.7 million refugees fleeing Ukraine into neighboring countries while an estimated 7.7 million people are internally displaced in the country, according to the U.N.

A major consequence of this war is that, while Russian President Vladimir Putin destroys farms in Ukraine, people around the world go hungry. Among the hardest hit are countries in Africa and the Middle East that already suffered food shortages prior to the war against Ukraine.

The United States announced on March 24 that it is prepared to provide more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance for Ukraine and the countries hosting refugees. U.S. assistance also supports efforts to reduce the suffering from food shortages worsened by Putin’s war.

Damage to agriculture in Ukraine, which produces 10% of the world’s wheat and 15% of the global supply of corn, is sending global food prices skyrocketing.

Putin’s war has destroyed farms in Ukraine and blocked exports of grain and wheat. A farmer surveys damage April 23. (© Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Since the start of the crisis in February, the United States has announced plans to provide:

  • More than $670 million in food assistance to countries in need as a result of Putin’s war against Ukraine, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan in East Africa, as well as to Yemen.
  • More than $311 million in emergency assistance to the Lake Chad Basin region and the Sahel, where U.N. Secretary General António Guterres says food prices driven up by the war against Ukraine threaten to worsen the suffering of millions of people. U.S. assistance will support 3.8 million people and includes rice, grains, vegetable oil and specialized food for treating acute malnutrition.
  • Nearly $64 million through the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) to feed more than 740,000 people in Lebanon, which relies heavily on wheat imported from Ukraine.

“Putin’s decision to wage a senseless and brutal war against a peaceful neighbor is leading to a staggering global food crisis,” U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power said April 27, announcing assistance for African nations. This aid “will help us respond to the unprecedented needs in countries around the world that are facing historic food insecurity.”

Russian forces in Ukraine have destroyed farms, blocked trade routes on the Black Sea and attacked infrastructure that is critical to trade.

The International Monetary Fund says Putin’s war in Ukraine has caused surging food prices in sub-Saharan Africa, threatening economic recovery in the region. “The war in Ukraine has triggered a sharp increase in energy and food prices that could undermine food security in the region, raise poverty rates, worsen income inequality, and possibly lead to social unrest,” the IMF says in introducing its regional economic outlook for sub-Saharan Africa.

Human Rights Watch says in an April 28 report many African nations that rely on Ukraine for wheat, fertilizer or vegetable oils are experiencing shortages as a result of the Russian military’s attack on Ukraine.

Refugees from Ethiopia receive food in eastern Sudan on March 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

“Rising prices are compounding the plight of millions of people thrown into poverty by the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring urgent action by governments and the international community,” HRW researcher Lena Simet says in the report “Ukraine/Russia: As War Continues, Africa Food Crisis Looms.”

The recently announced U.S. assistance builds on hundreds of millions in humanitarian assistance the United States has provided to help people suffering from war and drought in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. A May 18 U.N. summit will raise additional funding for WFP to assist countries facing food shortages.

U.S. government agencies “are committed to working closely to leverage all available resources to mitigate the worst impacts of this food security crisis,” USAID said in an April 27 announcement of funding for east African nations and Yemen.