The Horn of Africa could face "unprecedented food unavailability problems" in 2023 due to ongoing drought and food supply shortages caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, David Beasley Executive Director of the UN World Food Program (WFP) has warned.
"The drought situation in the Somali region of Ethiopia is desperate and extraordinary," Beasley said during a briefing on Thursday after his visit to drought stricken Gode district in Ethiopia's Somali region.
The region has been hit by several years of conflict, climate change and recently affected by the impacts of COVID-19 and Russia-Ukraine conflict which cut food supply to Africa and the entire world, the WFP chief said.
Highlighting that Russia and Ukraine supply about 13 percent of wheat, 20 percent of maize, 76 percent of sunflower oil to the world, Beasley said the conflict has pushed the number of African people suffering from food shortages to 325 million from 276 million before the conflict began some months ago.
"WFP's operational cost has increased by additional 70 million U.S. dollars every month after the Russia-Ukraine (conflict) broke out, which resulted in increase in fuel, fertilizer and shipping prices," he said, noting that the situation forced WFP to cut food ration to four million people.
"Whenever a sanction is put in place, the international community should make certain that it does not hurt the rest of the world," Beasley said, as he called for the opening up of ports for the sake of food and fertilizer supply to the needy.
In a statement it released during the briefing, WFP said an estimated 7.4 million people wake up hungry every day in southern and south eastern Ethiopia as the country grapples with the most severe drought since 1981.