War in Ukraine supercharging crisis for world’s most vulnerable, says UN chief

Up to 1.7 billion people facing increases in poverty and hunger, warns António Guterres

The war in Ukraine is supercharging a food, energy and financial crisis that is pummelling some of the world's most vulnerable people, countries and economies, the secretary general of the United Nations has said.

António Guterres said the impact of the war was global and systemic and warned that up to 1.7 billion people were “now highly exposed to disruptions in food, energy and finance systems that are triggering increases in poverty and hunger”.

“We are now facing a perfect storm that threatens to devastate the economies of developing countries,” he said.

He said 36 countries counted on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat imports – including some of the poorest and most vulnerable countries of the world.


“Prices were already on the rise – but the war has made a bad situation far worse. Wheat and maize prices have been very volatile since the war began, but are still 30 per cent higher just since the start of the year.”

Mr Guterres said at the same time, Russia was a top energy supplier.

“Oil prices are up more than 60 per cent over the past year, accelerating the prevailing trends. The same goes for natural gas prices, which have risen by 50 per cent in recent months.”

Soaring food costs

He said fertiliser prices had also more than doubled. “As prices climb, so does hunger and malnutrition – especially for young children.

“Inflation is rising, purchasing power is eroding, growth prospects are shrinking and development is being stalled and in some cases, gains are receding.”

The UN secretary general was speaking at the release of the first detailed policy brief issued by the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance which he set up to study the effects of the war in Ukraine on the world's most vulnerable.

Mr Guterres said the report also showed there was a direct correlation between rising food prices and social and political instability.

It urges in light of the soaring cost of food, fuel and other commodities, all countries to keep their markets open, resist hoarding and unnecessary export restrictions, and make reserves available to countries at the highest risk of hunger and famine.

The report calls on international financial institutions to release funding for the most vulnerable countries, help governments in developing countries to invest in the poorest and most vulnerable by increasing social protection, and work towards reforming the global financial system so that inequalities are reduced.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent