UN Agencies Warn of Rising Humanitarian Needs in Ukraine

United Nations agencies say humanitarian needs are increasing and spreading throughout Ukraine as the war there intensifies and expands to more areas of the country.

The World Food Program says food is dwindling and becoming harder to get in Ukraine. Despite the security risks, WFP says it has managed to provide food to 1 million people since Russia’s military forces invaded Ukraine February 24.

Speaking from the western city of Lviv, WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri said it is difficult to assess the extent of damage to the country or the needs of a fast-moving population during a volatile security situation.

“I have just returned from a voucher distribution center in Lviv, and people are stretched,” he said. “They are running out of options and, with each day, it is taking a toll on them. Our plan as the World Food Program is to support more and more people.”  

Phiri said the WFP aims to provide food and cash assistance to more than 3 million people inside Ukraine, as well as 300,000 people who have fled to neighboring countries.

However, one of the biggest challenges facing WFP, he said, is finding enough partners to distribute the food aid in besieged places.  He said the WFP is trying to enlist the help of nongovernmental and civil society organizations, and even churches in this effort. 

“In areas that are indirectly affected by the war and where food is still available and retail shops are operating normally, we continue to roll out cash and vouchers as a means of support,” Phiri said. “Where possible as well, WFP will purchase food from within Ukraine so that we also inject money into the economy to support people who have been displaced.”  

United Nations and international agencies say the conflict in Ukraine is having a profound impact on the world’s food supply.  The Food and Agriculture Organization says Russia and Ukraine account for nearly 30% of the global wheat trade, with at least 50 countries dependent on imports from them.

The FAO says global hunger will increase as Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports decrease and food prices spiral to new heights.

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