Sifelani Tsiko Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor
The raging Russia-Ukraine conflict has underscored the fragility of the African continent which is now the worst affected in terms of escalating price shocks in the global food, energy and fertilizer markets, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Crisis Response Group (GCRG) says.
According to the latest findings of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Crisis Response Group (GCRG) on food, energy and finance systems, Africa, which is already grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, is the worst exposed by the conflict in Ukraine.
The UN agency said the African sub-region had emerged as the most vulnerable globally to the conflict compared to other regions of the world.
“Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, remain significantly vulnerable with one out of every two Africans in the region exposed to all three dimensions of the crisis,” GCRG report indicated.
“The Latin America and the Caribbean region is the second largest group facing the cost-of-living crisis with nearly 20 countries deeply affected. Extreme poverty could threaten the lives and livelihoods of 2.8 million people in the Middle East and North Africa.”
GCRG further said that South Asia, which is currently experiencing crippling levels of heatwaves, 500 million people are severely exposed to the food and finance crisis.
Countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are severely exposed to the energy and finance dimensions, given the importance of remittances and energy exports from Russia.
The brief makes policy recommendations to address the cost-of-living crisis, highlighting immediate action on two critical fronts – the urgent need for stability in the global food and energy markets to break the vicious cycle of rising prices and the imperative to bring relief to developing countries, calling on resources to be made available immediately to help the poorest countries and communities.
“There is no solution to this global crisis without a solution to the economic crisis in the developing world. The global financial system must rise above its shortcomings and use all the instruments at its disposal, with flexibility and understanding, to provide support to vulnerable countries and vulnerable people,” said UN secretary-general António Guterres at the launch of the GCRG’s latest brief.
“The message of today’s report is clear and insistent: we must act now to save lives and livelihoods over the next months and years. It will take global action to fix this global crisis.”
An estimated 1,6 billion people in 94 countries are exposed to at least one dimension of the crisis, and about 1,2 billion of them live in ‘perfect-storm’ countries which are severely vulnerable to all three dimensions – food, energy and finance – of the cost-of-living crisis, the GCRG report said.
According to the World Food Programme, more than 18 million people in West and Central Africa will need food assistance this year.
WFP says it needs US$770 million in the next six months for its operations in 19 countries in the region.
Up to 20 million people could go hungry this year as delayed rains worsen extreme drought in the Horn of Africa region, the WFP said in a brief.
International shocks associated with the Covid 19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine as well as drought and floods have also affected southern African countries.
Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies. Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, while Russia and Belarus – which has backed Moscow in its war in Ukraine – account for more than 40% of global exports of potash, a crop nutrient.