FLORENCE – Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Program and former South Carolina Governor David Beasley recently returned to the United States from Ukraine.
Beasley was in Florence Monday speaking with the Florence Rotary Club at Victors.
Beasley said he has recently been to Ukraine, Poland and Brussels and after a few weeks in the United States he will return to Ukraine where the World Food Program is on the ground providing essential food assistance to people in Ukraine and those fleeing with them place to go. He said they set up places to provide food aid to the people of Ukraine and those leaving the country.
He said millions of people, not just in Ukraine, are marching towards starvation – people who don’t know where their next meal will come from. He said the number has skyrocketed in recent years due to man-made conflicts, climatic conditions such as droughts, hurricanes, cyclones and other natural disasters.
With COVID-19, he said, the perfect storm has been created, with fuel, food and shipping costs rising. And now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has compounded the problem.
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He said the situation in Ukraine could become critical for the global food supply chain in the coming months. Ukraine is a major grain producer.
He said the program consists of getting wheat from Ukraine to feed hungry people in other countries. A wheat shortage could increase costs and affect the number of people they can feed.
Ukraine is the “breadbasket of the world,” not just for the people of Ukraine, Beasley said. He said 30 percent of the world wheat supply comes from Ukraine and Russia. He said Egypt gets about 80 percent of its wheat from Ukraine.
Ukraine is going from the breadbasket of the world to a breadline, he said.
Beasley spoke about how they need to get food to people in war zones, whether it’s by air or on the ground.
“When people don’t get food, it’s amazing what they do,” Beasley said.
Corn will soon be grown in Ukraine, and instead of planting, farmers are fighting. He said this could contribute to grain shortages.
Beasley said China has been buying up as much grain as possible.
How will all of this affect the food supply for the rest of 2022?
“The jury will sit out the next 90 days,” he said.
He said if the fighting is not resolved soon, 2023-24 could be very difficult.
One of the organization’s concerns, Beasley said, is that it is already having to tailor food for hungry children to give to starving children.
Beasley was asked if he had seen anything like what is happening in Ukraine before. Beasley said his organization constantly sees this type of situation as bad, if not worse, in places like Ethiopia, Yemen and Afghanistan. He said the difference is that the media focus their coverage on the European country of Ukraine.
Beasley told Rotarians that they can help by praying, sending money, and contacting their government officials to do more.