The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says Russia’s war in Ukraine has only made an already “horrific” global food crisis even more dire.
Speaking on August 5 in Ghana, Linda Thomas-Greenfield predicted that the war will cause food insecurity for an additional 40 million people and that sub-Saharan Africa will be hardest hit.
Thomas-Greenfield said that the COVID-19 pandemic caused the number of people considered food insecure to nearly double to 190 million. Since Russia’s unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the UN estimates that this number could rise to 230 million.
“That would mean that more than 40 million people will have become food insecure since [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin chose to invade his neighbor and steal their land. That’s more people than the entire population of Ghana,” she said.
She linked the increase to Russia’s capture of some of Ukraine’s most productive farmland, its spoiling of fields with mines and bombs, and the theft or destruction of agricultural equipment and infrastructure.
“The fact is, this hurts Africa,” she said, adding that she understands that Africans “don’t want to be pressured to pick a side,” but said they need to know the facts.
African governments have largely avoided taking sides in the conflict and have refused to join Western condemnation and sanctions.
Thomas-Greenfield said she wanted to “present the facts” to Africans that Russia’s blockage of the Black Sea kept more than 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain from global markets and threatened food security across the Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile, food prices worldwide are 23 percent higher than a year ago, she said.
Moscow has consistently denied responsibility for worsening the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing its food and fertilizer exports.
Thomas-Greenfield strongly refuted that claim, calling it “a regular piece of disinformation.”
She said U.S. sanctions do not apply to food and fertilizer and the U.S. has taken extra steps to make sure that companies and financial institutions understand that food and fertilizer are not the target of the U.S. measures.
“The fact is that our sanctions are targeted at Putin and his supporters, not agriculture and food, which are specifically carved out of the sanctions,” she said.
“Regardless of how you feel about Russia, we all have a powerful common interest in mitigating the impact of the war in Ukraine on food security,” she added.