The UN security council discussed how the war in Ukraine may worsen global hunger The U.S. is using its presidency of the UN Security Council to focus on food security, as much of the world worries about the ripple effects from the war in Ukraine.

The UN security council discussed how the war in Ukraine may worsen global hunger

The UN security council discussed how the war in Ukraine may worsen global hunger

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1100228331/1100228332" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The U.S. is using its presidency of the UN Security Council to focus on food security, as much of the world worries about the ripple effects from the war in Ukraine.

EMILY FENG, HOST:

U.S. and U.N. officials are warning that the war in Ukraine could push millions more into poverty and hunger around the globe. That's because Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat and fertilizer, as is Russia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken chaired a U.N. Security Council meeting on the subject today, and NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued a wake-up call to the Security Council, warning of rising hunger due to drought, distribution problems and conflicts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTONIO GUTERRES: The war in Ukraine is now adding a frightening new dimension to this picture of global hunger. Russia's invasion of its neighbor has effectively ended its food exports.

KELEMEN: Ukraine had been a major supplier of wheat to the U.N. World Food Programme. Its director, David Beasley, also had a message to Russia today about the blockade of Ukrainian ports.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID BEASLEY: Truly, failure to open those ports in Odesa region will be a declaration of war on global food security, and it will result in famine and destabilization and mass migration around the world.

KELEMEN: Ghana's Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway says the African continent is no stranger to, as she puts it, harrowing images of starvation caused by conflict. But she noted that usually, conflicts only affect those living in or near war zones.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHIRLEY AYORKOR BOTCHWAY: Today, however, perhaps the first time since the Second World War, we see the impact of one conflict on food security in every country, every home and on everyone.

KELEMEN: She says the world is in unchartered waters.

The diplomat who represented India at the meeting, V. Muraleedharan, pointed to another problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

V MURALEEDHARAN: The global south has been adversely impacted both by the conflict itself as well as by the various measures put in place in response.

KELEMEN: In other words, the sanctions meant to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Russia's ambassador Vasily Nebenzya picked up on that theme, accusing the West of trying to break the back of Russia's economy through what he calls a proxy war.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VASILY NEBENZYA: (Through translator) Then in essence, what you're doing is you're taking hostage the whole of the developing world, and you are pushing it towards hunger.

KELEMEN: By the time the Russian ambassador spoke, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was long gone. But he told the Security Council earlier that Russia is pushing a false narrative.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTONY BLINKEN: Sanctions aren't blocking Black Sea ports, trapping ships filled with food, Russia is. Sanctions are not emptying Ukrainian grain silos and stealing Ukrainian farm equipment, Russia is.

KELEMEN: And he said there are carve-outs in Western sanctions to make sure that Russia can export its fertilizer and food. The U.N. secretary-general says he's been working intensely with countries in the region to reopen trade that is crucial for the world.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.