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U.N. agency calls for re-opening of Ukraine ports to feed hungry

U.N. agency calls for re-opening of Ukraine ports to feed hungry
Refugees with their children from the city of Kherson and its area, sized by Russia, are staying at Odesa Way Home Charity Foundation in the South Ukrainian city of Odesa, Ukraine. File Photo by Stepan Franko/EPA-EFE

May 7 (UPI) -- The United Nations World Food Program has called for the re-opening of Ukrainian ports blocked because of the Russia-Ukraine war to address global hunger crisis.

Millions of metric tons of grain have been sitting in silos in Odesa and other Ukrainian ports, and more grain is stranded on ships due to the conflict, according to the U.N. agency.

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The WFP has called for these ports to be re-opened so farmers will have a place to store the next harvest in July/August. Otherwise, it could go to waste, which will exacerbate the global hunger crisis.

"Right now, Ukraine's grain silos are full," WFP Executive Director David Beasley said in a statement on Friday. "At the same time, 44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation. We have to open these ports so that food can move in and out of Ukraine. The world demands it because hundreds of millions of people globally depend on these supplies.

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"We're running out of time and the cost of inaction will be higher than anyone can imagine. I urge all parties involved to allow this food to get out of Ukraine to where it's desperately needed so we can avert the looming threat of famine."

Meanwhile, the conflict escalated in the southern port city of Odesa on Saturday.

Russia fired four cruise missiles at Odesa's port, but there were no casualties, according to a post from the Ukraine military's Operational Command (South) on Facebook.

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"The enemy continues not only the physical destruction of the region's infrastructure, but also the psychological pressure on civilians," Ukraine's regional military administration's post read. "The Ukrainian nation is unbreakable: there are no victims: infrastructure damage will be rebuilt."

A drone video that the regional military administration posted also purported to show a strike against a Russian patrol boat in the Black Sea, CNN reported.

According to a WFP analysis, 276 million people worldwide were facing acute hunger at the start of this year, and the number is expected to rise if the conflict in Ukraine continues, with the worst increase in sub-Saharan African.

Ukraine produced enough food before the war to feed 400 million people, and most of that food was exported through the country's seven Black Sea ports.

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The disruption in the food market since the war began on Feb. 24, pushed food prices to record highs earlier this year, according to the WFP. Export prices for wheat and maize rose by 22% and 20%, respectively, in the next month.

The increase in food prices, along with the rising cost of fuel, has driven up WFP's operational costs by up to $71 million a month, equivalent to the cost of providing almost 4 million people with a daily ration of food for the month.

Together, Russia and Ukraine account for almost 30% of total global exports of wheat, nearly 20% of global exports of corn, and close to 80% of sunflower seed products, including oils. The war has largely shut off grain exports from Ukraine, affected Ukrainian farmers' ability to plant the crop and pushed global hunger to its highest level since the early 2000s.

Taking shelter in Ukraine

Lyubov Ivanovna Vlasenko, 70, (L) and her husband Gennady Ivanovich Sergeev, 74, eat lunch in the basement-turned bunker moments after Russian artillery landed approximately 800 meters away in the Pyatikhatki district, of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 1, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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