Russia’s War, Drought Could Create Deadly Consequences in Africa
Fear of famine in Africa is rising due to the ripple effects of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and a drought across the continent.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, many countries have seen food prices surge.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that food prices hit a 14-year high in March. Oil has spiked to its highest prices since 2008. Fertilizer also has skyrocketed in price.
Economics professor Vitalii Dankevych of Polissia National University in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, said the war has stopped some Ukrainian farmers from planting crops, which usually begins in the third week of March.
“The most difficult spring sowing in the history of independent Ukraine is occurring,” Dankevych wrote for nonprofit Food Tank. “Farmers are simply not able to get into fields because they and their communities are fighting to survive.
“Wheat, barley, oats, peas, canola and some vegetables are typically planted in the next few weeks to avoid losing moisture in soils. Typically, farmers fertilize winter cereals and industrial crops, in particular wheat, rye and rapeseed during this time.”
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the Russian invasion could cost Ukraine as much as one third of its crops this year.
Hanan Morsy, UNECA deputy executive secretary and chief economist, listed 10 African countries most dependent on Ukrainian food imports.
The 10 countries — Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Tunisia — depend heavily on Ukraine and Russia for wheat and maize. Russia is attacking agricultural infrastructure and blocking more than 90 Ukrainian export ships in the Black Sea.
“It’s important to remember that these 10 countries constitute half of the population of Africa and two-thirds of the continent’s gross domestic product,” she said during a March 24 virtual meeting. “So even though it’s just 10 countries, there are significant implications for Africa as a whole, including looming food security risks.”
Nearly every African country was on the Global Hunger Index’s 2021 index before Russia invaded Ukraine, and 1 in 5 people on the continent is malnourished — more than 300 million people — according to the U.N.
The World Food Programme (WFP) also is warning of a catastrophe, saying half of the grain it uses to feed the needy originates in Ukraine. It has been forced to cut aid to some countries because of Russia’s war.
More than 43 million hungry people are in the Sahel and West Africa, a number that has quadrupled over the last three years, the WFP reported on April 8.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, food prices in Africa have risen 30-50% in many places and doubled in other markets.
While Russia’s invasion has destabilized world markets, it also is compounding the already deadly impact of droughts across Africa.
Poor yields in 2021 already had farmers concerned about this year’s harvest, but millions in East Africa are bracing for impact from the worst drought in decades.
The U.N. estimates more than 15 million people in the Horn of Africa are suffering severe hunger because of persistent drought, as the region is hit with the driest conditions recorded since 1981.
Humanitarian groups says food security likely will deteriorate further without urgent funding and support.
International aid organization Oxfam warned that the hunger crisis could become a catastrophe. If aid does not reach the most vulnerable, Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher said hundreds of thousands of people in East Africa could die this year.
“The brutal truth is that at the moment, East Africa is not on the global agenda,” she told the Associated Press.