Fears are growing that a war in Ukraine could destabilize other countries, especially in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
According to the UN, Ukraine and Russia are major players in global food production, accounting for 53% of global trade in sunflower oil and seeds and 27% of wheat.
But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has put those exports at risk, which is of particular concern to developing countries – for example, about 25 African countries import more than a third of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia.
Speaking on Sky Ian King Live, Nick Haley, Executive Director of charity International Alert, said: “Even before Ukraine, we were talking about an unprecedented level of humanitarian need – one in 95 people displaced by conflict or emergency.
“Climate change has led to drought – East Africa, for example, had three unsuccessful rainy seasons, Somalia has over seven million people in urgent need of food assistance, even before Ukraine.
“And then with Ukraine, the prices for wheat, the prices for vegetable oil, the prices for transporting these things really exploded, and it only made things worse. »
Mr. Haley, formerly of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said Egypt is the world’s largest importer of Russian and Ukrainian wheat; Lebanon, which is 80% dependent on its food security; and Tunisia, where bread and basic foodstuffs are already in short supply, are among the most vulnerable.
“Another example is Sudan. We have seen in the past how protests against bread prices have led to serious political violence in Sudan.
“These are the basic things that people rely on, so we need to monitor these risks of political instability, as well as their impact on food insecurity and the cost of living. »
Mr Haley said that with the government keeping its promise to spend just 0.5% of GDP on international aid, the increase in aid Ukraine needs does not make sense for other countries such as Yemen, where tens of millions of people urgently need food.
He said: “If you look at what the UK government is doing, you will see that they have really stepped up their efforts for Ukraine – they have mobilized a huge amount of money for help, but this help comes at the expense of work elsewhere.
“Because the 0.5% limit on aid spending that the government is sticking to means a change in priorities, it is actually taking money from some of these other crises to work in Ukraine. »
He added: “This is not what the British public has done.
“The British public has responded to this crisis in an unprecedented way by donating more than £200m to the Ukraine emergency appeal.
“So we ask that the UK government and other governments respond in the same way.
“This is an unprecedented global crisis and governments really need to intervene. »
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Mr Haley also identified conflict as threatening some of the former Soviet republics and Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova.
The economies of several Central Asian countries, commonly referred to as “stans”, depend on migrant workers who travel to Russia and send their earnings home.
But the Russian economy had already been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and sanctions compounded the damage, with many of those workers returning home “unemployed and hungry.”
“This is a blow – it is also a serious risk to the stability of some of these countries,” he said.
Moldova, the poorest European country hosting Ukrainian refugees, is also at risk, Haley said, adding that there have been conflicts within its own borders.
If the Ukrainian city of Odessa, located across the border with Moldova, were captured and people fled, it could “put real pressure on Moldova.”