Families in Africa are seeing the price of wheat flour reach levels not seen in months as Russia continues to wage its war on Ukraine.
Most of the wheat sold in Somalia is imported from Ukraine and Russia, but exports through the Black Sea have been stopped since the Kremlin launched its invasion into its eastern European neighbor in late February.
African countries imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to data from the United Nations. The African Development Bank reported that the price of wheat in the continent has increased by 45%, making several wheat products more expensive for customers.
The UN has warned that 14 million people were suffering from severe hunger in the Horn of Africa due to a drought in the region, and that the number may only worsen in the coming months.
“The number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022”, the UN World Food Program said in April.
Businessman Haji Abdi Dhiblawe, who imports wheat flour into Somalia, has also raised concerns that the food situation in the area will deteriorate.
“Somalis have no place to grow wheat, and we are not even familiar with how to grow it,” he said. “Our main concern now is what will the future hold for us when we currently run out of supplies.”
There is also an anticipated shortage of shipping containers, which are needed to bring food in from other places at this time.
Another 18 million people in the Sahel are enduring severe hunger. Sahel is located just under the Sahara Desert, where farmers are facing their worst agricultural production in more than ten years.
“Acute hunger is soaring to unprecedented levels and the global situation just keeps on getting worse. Conflict, the climate crisis, COVID-19 and surging food and fuel costs have created a perfect storm — and now we’ve got the war in Ukraine piling catastrophe on top of catastrophe,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said earlier this month.
According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, the price of therapeutic food for malnourished children could increase 16% over the next six months because of Russia’s war and pandemic-related disruptions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last week called on the West to lift sanctions against his country over its war against Ukraine, an apparent attempt to blame the West for a global food crisis.
According to the Kremlin, Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Russia “is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizer on the condition that politically motivated restrictions imposed by the West are lifted.”
But Western officials have rejected Russia’s claims that sanctions are the reason for the food shortage. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that food, fertilizer and seeds are exempt from Russian sanctions imposed by the US and several other countries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.