UN chief: war in Ukraine hits poor nations dependent on wheat

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations chief warned Monday that Russia’s war on Ukraine holds “a sword of Damocles” over the global economy, particularly poor developing countries, which are facing skyrocketing food, fuel and fertilizer prices and now see their granary. be bombed.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters that “Russia and Ukraine account for more than half of the world’s sunflower oil supply and about 30 percent of the world’s wheat” and that “grain prices have already surpassed those at the start of the Arab Spring and food riots.” from 2007-2008.”

He told reporters that 45 African and least developed countries import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and 18 of them import at least 50%. Those countries include Egypt, Congo, Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, he said.

“All of this is hitting the poorest hardest and planting the seeds of political instability and unrest around the world,” Guterres warned, saying the most vulnerable country was already trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and deal with it to cope with record inflation. rising interest rates and looming debt before the Ukraine war.

David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Programme, told The Associated Press during a visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv that 50% of the grain the agency buys goes “to feed the 125 million people we eat on any given day, in a week or month” comes from Ukraine, as does 20% of the world corn supply.

“So (the war) will have dynamic global catastrophic effects,” Beasley said.

Guterres reiterated his call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and serious peace negotiations. “Ukraine is on fire,” he said, adding that “the impact on civilians is staggering.”

He announced an additional $40 million from the United Nations Emergency Relief Fund to bring essential food, water and medicines to Ukraine, where at least 1.9 million people are displaced. More than 2.8 million others have fled Ukraine to other countries.

UN humanitarian workers report that civilians trapped in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol are facing life-threatening shortages of food, water, medicines and other basic needs, said UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq.

The UN has reached 600,000 people in Ukraine with some form of humanitarian assistance, he said, but the UN’s $1.1 billion lightning appeal to help 6 million people in Ukraine for the first three months has so far failed only received $219 million, just 19 percent. He called on the countries that had made pledges to convert them into cash.

On Sunday, three UN agencies called for an immediate end to attacks on health facilities, saying 24 medical facilities and five ambulances have been damaged or destroyed since the war began, killing at least 12 people and injuring 34.

The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the UN Population Fund said that “terrific attacks are killing and seriously injuring patients and health workers, destroying vital health infrastructure and forcing thousands without access to health services despite dire need.” They called the attacks “an act of unscrupulous cruelty.”

At UN headquarters, a draft UN resolution on the humanitarian crisis is being moved from the 15-member Security Council, where Russia has veto power, to the 193-member General Assembly, where there are no vetoes.

Co-sponsors France and Mexico said in a joint statement Monday that achieving an immediate cessation of hostilities is their “absolute priority” to protect Ukraine’s civilian population and allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to millions of people in need . You also said that a significant number of countries that are not on the Security Council would like to help promote a resolution.

“We are witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II,” said French Ambassador to the UN Nicolas De Riviere and Mexican Ambassador Juan Ramon De La Fuente. “The humanitarian situation in Ukraine is deteriorating by the hour”, civilians are dying every day and the number of refugees and internally displaced persons continues to grow.

“In order to enable a strong common message from the international community, we have decided to address our initiative to the General Assembly,” the two envoys said.

Council diplomats said after those two weeks of behind-closed-doors discussions that the draft resolution would almost certainly have met with a Russian veto in the Security Council if it called for an immediate end to hostilities, which the United States and its Western allies are seeking. If that were scrapped, as some council members wanted, Western nations felt the resolution was too weak, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity as council discussions were private.

De Riviere told reporters, “Obviously it would have been difficult in the Security Council.”

By submitting the draft resolution to the General Assembly, the co-sponsors lose the prospect of the resolution being legally binding – as is the case with Security Council resolutions. But they could rally strong support for a call for an end to the violence and for words deploring the dire state of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

After Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate halt to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops, the General Assembly passed a similar resolution on March 2 by an overwhelming majority of 141 to 5 with 35 abstentions.

De Riviere said France and Mexico are optimistic that all UN members would support an assembly resolution on access to humanitarian aid, cessation of hostilities and respect for international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions.

“The sooner the better,” he said.

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