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Global food crisis ‘will kill millions’

Hungry people are vulnerable to diseases

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Photo Courtesy : AFP

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — The global food crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine will kill millions by leaving the hungriest more vulnerable to infectious diseases, potentially triggering the world’s next health catastrophe, the head of a major aid organization has warned.

A Russian naval blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports has stopped grain shipments from the world’s fourth-largest exporter of wheat and corn, raising the specter of shortages and hunger in low-income countries.

The knock-on effects of the food shortages mean many will die not only of starvation but from having weaker defenses against infectious diseases due to bad nutrition, Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria told AFP this week.

“I think we’ve probably already begun our next health crisis. It’s not a new pathogen but it means people who are poorly nourished will be more vulnerable to the existing diseases,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of a G20 health minister meeting in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.

“I think the combined impact of infectious diseases and the food shortages and the energy crisis… we can be talking about millions of extra deaths because of this,” he said.

World governments should minimize the impact of the food crisis by providing frontline healthcare to their poorest communities, who will be the most vulnerable, the British former banker who now heads the $4 billion fund said.

Ship leaves port

Meanwhile, a Turkish cargo ship on Wednesday left Ukraine’s Russian-occupied port of Mariupol after a round of “constructive” grain talks with Moscow, Turkey’s defense ministry said, without specifying if it was carrying wheat.

The statement added that the Azov Concord became the first foreign ship to leave the port in Mariupol — a city devastated by a weeks-long siege Ukrainian officials estimate claimed 20,000 lives — since Russia’s invasion in February.

Turkey has been spearheading efforts to resume grain deliveries across the Black Sea that have been stalled by minefields and a Russian military blockade of Ukrainian ports.

Millions of tons of wheat and other grains are currently stuck in Ukrainian and Russian-occupied ports.

The crisis has seen food prices soar and contributed to the global spike in inflation.

The United Nations warns that it is affecting poorer African countries the most because of their heavy dependence on Russian and Ukrainian wheat.

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