“We cannot accept mass hunger and starvation in the 21st century.” The words of António Guterres, the Secretary General of the UN, resonated this Friday in the hunger summit organized by the German Government in Berlin on the eve of the meeting of heads of state of the G-7 in the castle of Elmau, in Bavaria. The global food crisis, exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has become a priority on the international agenda. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, called for more financial contributions to deal with this humanitarian crisis, the most urgent global problem for the representatives of 50 countries meeting this Friday in Berlin.
The war will add “another 40 to 50 million more people to the ranks of the hungry,” predicted Blinken, who blamed Russia for causing the world food crisis. The leaders meeting in Berlin have set out to find reliable transport routes to export the grain that remains blocked in Ukraine and fight Kremlin propaganda and disinformation. Moscow says it is not blocking exports and blames European sanctions for difficulties getting grain out of Ukraine. “Sanctions do not affect global food security; the behavior of Russia, yes”, assured the Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, during a break in the conference. German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “blackmailing” the world.
“Our message as the G-7 is clear: We will not allow Russia’s war of aggression to plunge the world into famine. As more industrialized countries we have a special responsibility,” said Baerbock, who accused Moscow of “deliberately causing food prices to skyrocket to destabilize entire countries.” The situation is very delicate. According to figures from the UN World Food Program, 345 million people are threatened by hunger, 200 million more than two years ago. Since the beginning of the war, Ukrainian ports have been blockaded, silos have been shelled by Russian troops, and part of this year’s harvest has been lost. Parts of Africa and the Middle East are the hardest hit: some North African countries used to cover their wheat needs almost exclusively through imports from Ukraine.
The World Food Program needs more resources to deal with the emergency, Blinken recalled in Berlin. Washington has already invested 2.8 billion euros in food aid and President Joe Biden plans to announce more aid at the G-7 summit, the US Secretary of State announced. Guterres, who participated by videoconference, called the situation an “unprecedented crisis.” Germany plans to allocate 4,000 million euros this year to fight hunger, but the money is not enough. It is necessary that the grains held in Ukraine be able to leave for the affected countries.
The foreign ministers of the G-7, meeting in parallel in the German capital, asked Russia in a statement to open the Black Sea ports and allow exports. They also appreciated the efforts of the UN and the action plan of the European Commission which, through the so-called EU-Ukraine Solidarity Routes, is attempting to transport cereals by road, rail and ship. Spain will participate in one of these initiatives, which intends to take the grain by train to the border with Poland and load it onto other trains bound for Spanish ports in the Mediterranean to store it until Ukraine decides where to export it. It is estimated that there are some 20 million tons of cereals blocked in the country, which is heading for four months of war.
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