By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, July 29, 2023 (NAN) The world is entering a “humanitarian doom loop” as Russia has not offered any free grain to the United Nations (UN) food relief agency so far, an official says.
The Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Carl Skau, said this at a press briefing on Friday at the UN headquarters in New York.
Skau said the Programme’s policy of buying supplies from Ukraine has been based on its competitive price and quality.
The WFP senior official said the collapse of the Black Sea Grain Initiative after Russia ended its engagement was “regrettable, to say the least.”
Under the initiative, WFP shipped more than 725,000 tons of grain, relieving hunger in some of the hardest hit corners of the world, including Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Yemen.
“WFP relied on Ukraine’s competitively priced, accessible and high-quality source of wheat,” Skau said, adding “in spite of the war and thanks to this accord, Ukraine remained WFP’s biggest supplier of wheat in 2022.”
“Losing this source now is of great concern, of course, as this is really about keeping the barn door open, just when millions are knocking on it.
“The world needs unimpeded access to major food supplies.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly promised to supply free grain to six African nations at a summit held earlier in the week, following the collapse of the Initiative.
Responding to a question, Skau said WFP had not been in talks with Russia about any free grain.
“We work in full cost recovery. So, we don’t service any country with in-kind. We have not been approached for any such discussion so far,” he added, noting that the UN agency buys grain where it is the cheapest and fastest to get to its beneficiaries.
Skau went on to note that some of the countries where the needs are the greatest are also “where funding for relief operations are declining, forcing humanitarians to reduce or cut assistance”.
“In WFP’s case, we have to make impossible trade-offs of prioritising assistance,” he said.
In addition, he said the UN agency was in the midst of “a crippling funding crisis, which is forcing it to scale back life-saving assistance right as acute hunger is hitting record levels.”
At least 38 of WFP’s 86 country operations have experienced cuts or are planning to scale down food assistance programmes.
These include operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, and several countries in West Africa.
“Less funding means WFP is forced to stop assisting people who are only in the category of ‘crisis level’. This is so that we can save those who are literally starving —– the category of catastrophic hunger,” Skau said.
He explained that due to these cuts, people at “crisis levels” of hunger, would fall into “catastrophic levels”.
The official said this would further raise humanitarian needs in the future if the food security situation globally does not improve.
“We are entering a humanitarian doom loop —– where we save people who are starving, at the cost of millions of others falling closer into that same category.”
Around 345 million people are at an acute state of food insecurity, while hundreds of millions more are at risk of worsening hunger.
This is on the back of climate change impacts, natural disasters, food price increases, economic slowdown, and conflict and insecurity.
Skau called on world leaders to prioritise funding for humanitarian response, enhance coordination with aid organisations, and address the root causes of these crises.(NAN)