Hunger is always followed by conflict, and a war in Ukraine will intensify a serious global hunger issue, which may have consequences for generations to come.
Ukraine is a bread basket for most developing countries, where hunger and malnutrition are already most common. Before the war in Ukraine, and even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was facing a major malnutrition crisis – meaning that even though people are eating enough food, they are not eating enough healthy and nutritious food. were. Nearly half of all preventable deaths in children under the age of 5 were – and are – lacking in proper nutrition, with 200 million children under the age of 5 malnourished. Every 11 seconds a child dies of malnutrition.
And the particularly insidious thing about malnutrition is that it has devastating long-term consequences. Children who survive even short periods of childhood malnutrition are more likely to suffer from lifelong health problems and developmental delays.
The problem will only get worse as the war in Ukraine continues. The number of malnourished people globally could increase from 8 million to 13 million as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Not to mention the more than 4 million Ukrainians who are now refugees.
Part of the problem is the issue of food supply and demand. Because of the war, farmers in Ukraine will miss their planting season. On top of that, sanctions imposed on Russia have made fertilizer more expensive – the world’s largest producer – leading to major supply shortages.
Countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are most dependent on Ukraine’s grain, and war is hindering their access to it, exacerbating the hunger issues these countries already face. Even before the Ukraine crisis began, more than 1 billion people in Africa and about 1.9 billion people in Asia (including the Middle East) could not afford a healthy diet.
But another part of the hunger and malnutrition crisis is a more complex issue – food prices. As the conflict continues, food prices are rising, and the rise in food prices affects vulnerable families the most. People everywhere, including in the US, will face rising food prices by skipping meals or choosing less nutritious alternatives to the food they need.
We have to act, and Congress has to take the lead. But right now, that commitment is not there. So far, Congress has not addressed the global hunger and malnutrition crisis. The recent omnibus bill provides much-needed additional funding to go to humanitarian care efforts in Ukraine. But as laudable as this provision is, it is not enough to address the scale and nature of the many crises the world is facing. Even if we successfully stem the tide of the escalating humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, the rest of the world will continue to suffer severely from the wider effects of the conflict as well as other drivers of hunger and malnutrition, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. Change.
The real leadership during this period of conflict would be much more than simply sending aid to Ukraine; It will answer the call of people, especially women and children, who are hungry and malnourished around the world – before it is too late.
That is why I am calling on all those who want to end malnutrition and urge their representatives to co-sponsor the bipartisanship. Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act 2021, This would authorize the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to advance targeted programs to prevent and treat malnutrition around the world and require stronger monitoring to ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars.
Raising global nutrition funding will save the lives of thousands of young children and improve the futures of millions of children, which is why I encourage everyone to ask our members of Congress to increase global nutrition funding to $300 million.
When we face challenges that will affect so many lives, I often think of this Bible verse: “Do not stop doing good to those in our hands” (Proverbs 3:27) .
It is in our power to prevent millions of the most vulnerable in our world from becoming malnourished. If no one takes steps to help solve this problem, we will lose entire generations to the tragedy of malnutrition.