Global food shortage a ‘catastrophe,' UN chief says

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that the world faces a "catastrophe" due to the growing global food shortage. 

"There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022," he alerted Friday, in a video message to officials. "And, 2023 could be even worse."

Guterres cited the war in Ukraine, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and inequality for the "unprecedented global hunger crisis."

"This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage," he added. "No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe."

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses reporters during a news conference on June 8, 2022 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer / AP Newsroom)

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He also called for debt relief for poor economies. 

He said that farmers around the world are being negatively impacted by rising energy and fertilizer prices, and that agency negotiators were working on a deal to enable Ukraine to export food and enable Russia to bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a conference on the global food crisis in Berlin, Germany June 24, 2022.  (John MacDougall/Pool via REUTERS / Reuters)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that sanctions on Russia exempt fertilizers, insurers, shippers, food and food products.

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Speaking in Sweden earlier this month, Guterres called the situation a perfect storm, and called for "quick and decisive action."

He said there would be no solution without bringing Ukraine’s food production back into the global market, alongside food and fertilizer from Russia.

A military vehicle is pictured in a grain field previously mined with explosives, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Chernihiv region, Ukraine May 24, 2022. Picture taken with drone.  (REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo / Reuters)

The U.N. says that the number of people who suffer from hunger began to slowly increase again in 2015 and that hundreds of millions are hungry.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 report, it is estimated that between 720 and 811 million people went hungry in 2020. 

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Projections show that the world is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 and that – if recent trends continue – the number of people affected by hunger would surpass 840 million by 2030.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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