The world was on the brink of famine before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and then came the war. So, let’s backtrack a bit.

The United Nations has established seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); goal number two is to eliminate hunger by 2030. In 2019, the UN Secretary General was so concerned that the world was not on track to reach that goal that he called for a UN Food Systems Summit which occurred last September 2021.

The Chair of the Summit was Dr. Agnes Kalibata, the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and former Agriculture Minister in Rwanda. Dr. Kalibata is widely regarded as a global leader on food security. Some 140 countries, including the US, participated in the Summit which examined a broad range of food systems and how to improve them.

After the Summit was announced, however, COVID hit; the drought and climate change got worse; and then on top of it, Russia invaded Ukraine.

In short, the world was in a precarious position before “the war.” But now the situation is getting more dire by the day because Ukraine is the breadbasket for much of the less developed world. While the war is having a major impact on the United States and other developed countries, it pales in comparison to the impact it will have on less developed countries. The impact on the World Food Program (WFP) and those countries that rely on food aid from WFP and other less developed countries cannot be overstated.

Russia has blocked the Ukrainian ports, is bombing the fields of grain and the railroads. While farmers in Ukraine are planting, (wearing helmets and flak jackets) it is unclear what the size of the harvest will be and whether any harvest will be exported. It is the Middle East and Africa that is most in need of the Ukrainian harvest - the wheat, corn, other grains, and cooking oil.

Putin’s war is more threatening than COVID. Global estimates are that between six and 15 million people have perished from COVID, a million in the United States. The estimate of how many people will perish during the next few years from hunger is ten to twenty times the COVID estimate.

Putin is not the cause of drought, climate change or COVID which clearly have disrupted the food supply. But he is responsible for the invasion of Ukraine and the impact the war is having on the hungriest people around the world. The war is creating a global hunger catastrophe and many millions will undoubtedly perish.

NOTE: Marshall Matz is an international leading expert in global food security issues. He is Chairman/Government Relations Practice Head, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC law firm. He was formerly General Counsel to the Senate Nutrition Committee. Marshall has devoted almost his entire career to domestic and global food security issues starting in the mid-1970's when he worked on the staff of the U.S.-Senate Agriculture Committee for Senator George McGovern. USUBC's Morgan Williams also worked on the staff of the U.S.-Senate Agriculture Committee at that time for Senator Bob Dole. Washington, D.C.