Russia ending grain deal worsens global hunger crisis | Opinion

Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal with Ukraine is the latest blow to the world’s hungry. This alarming news comes right after the new United Nations report showing 122 million more people are facing hunger worldwide since 2019.

With hunger worsening, everyone needs to take action, from world leaders to citizens.

Russia must rejoin the grain deal, which allowed food from Ukraine to be safely shipped to countries who depend on it. Ukraine’s massive supply of grain has been at risk since Russia’s brutal invasion began in 2022. The war has caused widespread displacement, major global instability and higher food prices which harms everyone. Russia must withdraw its troops and end its invasion of Ukraine.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book "Ending World Hunger."
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”

With so many nations in severe hunger emergencies, we cannot afford to lose food supplies. The U.N.’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report revealed around 735 million people currently facing hunger, compared to 613 million in 2019. Conflicts, drought caused by climate change, the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and high food prices have all put more people into the pit of hunger.

But what’s making it worse is the lack of resources to combat hunger. Just recently, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) announced reductions in food aid to West Africa, Haiti and refugees in the Middle East because of low funding. WFP depends on voluntary donations from governments and the public.

The world has to keep pace with the increasing demand for food aid.

“Hunger is rising while the resources we urgently need to protect the most vulnerable are running dangerously low,” said WFP Director Cindy McCain. “As humanitarians, we are facing the greatest challenge we’ve ever seen. We need the global community to act swiftly, smartly and compassionately to reverse course and turn the tide on hunger.”

Imagine the sadness and despair for thousands of hungry children in Haiti when they learn they will no longer receive school meals because of low funding.

With funding so low for Haitian relief, school meals will be facing cuts unless aid increases. Already the WFP has been forced to reduce its food distributions by 25% in Haiti because of low donations.

With funding also low in West Africa, the WFP can only reach just over half of the 11.6 million people they were trying to feed in Burkina Faso, Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and northeastern Nigeria.

Imagine if, after World War II, the United States had not taken action against hunger in Europe and Asia. The world’s biggest famine could have followed WWII, with hundreds of millions of people starving to death. We prevented this tragedy with robust food aid.

Likewise, today, we need to make fighting global hunger a bigger priority. Tell Congress to support funding increases for global food aid. Host a hunger relief event to educate and encourage others to join you.

You can also urge Congress to support a Farm Bill that reauthorizes the Food for Peace program that feeds the hungry and promotes peace.

The Farm Bill should also reauthorize the McGovern-Dole program that provides school meals in impoverished countries. The program was named after former senators George McGovern and Bob Dole. WFP, Catholic Relief Services, Mary’s Meals, Save the Children, Mercy Corps and CARE can use McGovern-Dole funding to provide school lunches to fight hunger and improve school attendance.

The only path to a world at peace is by defeating hunger, and each of us can lead in making this noble cause happen.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.” He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.