5 votes

How war in Ukraine is making people hungry in the Middle East


  1. [2]
    From the article: [...] [...] [...] [...] [...]

    From the article:

    [Lebanon] had already been suffering from widespread hunger in the past two years. But the war is making that even worse. Ukraine and Russia combined provide 95 percent of Lebanon’s wheat. Martin Keulertz, a food security researcher at the American University of Beirut, told me that an estimated four out of five people in Lebanon are now food insecure, meaning “they don’t get food at all times at the sufficient quantity and quality.”


    [UN’s World Food Programme] was “incurring $42 million more [per month] for food purchases prior to the Ukraine crisis because of high food and fuel prices globally,” said Reem Nada, communications officer for the World Food Programme MENA region. “With the added blow of the Ukraine crisis, WFP is incurring another $29 million more [per month].” In Yemen and Syria — two countries in the region with severe and ongoing conflict-driven hunger crises — the WFP is only 31 percent and 24 percent funded respectively, while in Yemen alone operations are $10 million higher per month than the WFP budgeted for.


    Adding to the trouble, the Beirut port explosion in 2020, which destroyed most of Lebanon’s main granary, left Lebanon with only enough room to store one month of grain supplies. This means that the government and other actors have to work more quickly to sort out short-term disruptions in supply chains because they don’t have six months of storage to rely on to feed the country in the meantime.


    You can’t drink oil, but the price of that keystone global commodity, which was already high pre-invasion, may affect the cost of food more than any other single factor. “We forget that most of the cost that consumers pay is actually everything that happens after a commodity leaves the farm,” said Chris Barrett, a professor at Cornell who researches food security. This matters because “the longer-run effect and immediate effect, both are probably going to come from the energy markets,” he added.


    The good news is that about 30 percent of the world’s wheat is in storage, according to Barrett, up from about 24 percent a decade ago. Thanks to a strong harvest in India and Australia and a predicted bumper crop in the northern hemisphere, as well as a predicted drop in feed wheat demand, wheat stocks should be able to meet demand through 2023 and beyond. As Barrett notes, “trade is built for moments like this.” But getting wheat from these more distant areas to the MENA region is more expensive than from the Black Sea region and takes much longer. The main challenge in the short- and medium-term will be getting this wheat to people vulnerable to hunger at a price they can afford.


    Aid can be given directly through shipments of food or through cash transfers (either unconditional or specifically for food), and every dollar or bushel of wheat saved through streamlined regulations makes a difference. The WFP’s Nada told me there are 18 million people in Syria and Yemen receiving direct food assistance from the WFP. Because of the higher price of wheat, the WFP’s operations are being stretched past the breaking point. “[I]mports from Ukraine account for 31 percent of the wheat arriving in Yemen in the past three months — prices are suddenly seven times higher than they were in 2015,” according to a WFP article from March. “A kilo of wheat flour now costs on average more than 800 rials (around US$3.20) in the south, compared to 146 rials (around US$0.58) before the crisis.”

    2 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      I'll add a direct link to GiveDirectly's pilot program for donations in Yemen: Support cash relief for food security in Yemen

      I'll add a direct link to GiveDirectly's pilot program for donations in Yemen:

      Support cash relief for food security in Yemen

      • Starting in June 2022, GiveDirectly will provide monthly cash support for 4 months to 4200+ households in Aden, Yemen to spend on whatever they need most.

      • To avoid devaluation, your donation will be converted to local Riyal currency just before it’s sent to a family who needs it.

      • This pilot will begin with at least 4,200 households. That is approximately ~26,000 individuals, based on an average household size of 6 to 7. We hope to expand this program following this pilot.

      3 votes