U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Friday that global food shortages due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict have reached the highest level of alarm.
“I can tell you on a scale of one to 10, I’m probably at the 10 level of alarm, because this crisis has exacerbated what is already a serious food insecurity issue,” Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with the BBC.
Consumer food prices in the U.S. alone made the largest 12-month increase since 1981 in April, when they slid up by 9.4%.
Thomas-Greenfield said that food insecurity was a serious issue before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, but since the conflict the global crisis has severely worsened.
“Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, its blockade of the ports, blocking Ukrainian wheat from getting to the market has exacerbated this situation and made it even more dire and the impact is being felt across the world,” she said.
The ambassador discussed ways to aid food insecurity around the world, saying that “first and foremost, we have to keep the pressure on the Russians to end this unconscionable war against the Ukrainian people and allow Ukraine to go back to a situation where they are contributing to the food market around the world.”
“We encourage countries not to put export restrictions on food coming from their countries,” Thomas-Greenfield added. “The U.S. just gave $44 million to Ukraine, a large portion of that going toward humanitarian assistance.”
However, Thomas-Greenfield emphasized that the ball is in Russia’s court when it comes to ending the hunger crisis.
“The facts are that they are blocking food,” she said of Russia. “There are no sanctions on their agricultural products. They are attacking Ukrainian silos and keeping farmers from planting. So the action is in Russia’s hands to stop this food blockade, to also start to export their own food that they have put restrictions on.”
Thomas-Greenfield added: “But in the meantime, as we keep the pressure on Russia, we will increase our humanitarian funding, our in-kind funding of food, and we’re encouraging others to do the same to keep the food and agricultural markets open.”