Ambassador Lisa Carty
U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council
New York, New York
April 21, 2022
Thank you very much, Ambassador Nason, for bringing us together for this very important conversation, and many thanks to our briefers for the information they’ve provided today.
This is an issue that is a top priority for the U.S. government. Only weeks after Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield arrived here last year, the United States made conflict-induced hunger the signature event of our Security Council Presidency. At that session, she shared what it was like to see starvation up close – the horror of seeing a child die from having too little to eat.
More and more, belligerents are intentionally destroying farms or blocking trade routes with the express purpose of causing people to starve. The people behind these acts have names and faces. They must be identified, stopped, and brought to justice.
To that end, right now, the world’s eyes are on Ukraine. According to the World Food Program, almost half of all people in Ukraine are worried about finding enough to eat. Russia’s war in Ukraine is having devastating consequences for the world’s most vulnerable. Russia wants us to believe that sanctions are the cause of rising food prices. But let me be clear, U.S. sanctions on Russia have never included food, agricultural products, or commercial shipping.
The truth is that Russia is squarely to blame for the food insecurity impacts its war of aggression has caused around the world. Ukraine is the world’s fifth largest exporter of wheat and the second largest exporter of sunflower oil. Russia has disrupted these staple crops by bombing civilian infrastructure, placing landmines in Ukrainian soil, and even deliberately and repeatedly damaging Ukrainian grain storage facilities – six by our latest count. And Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports is stopping what food Ukraine has left from being exported to other countries in dire need. If Russia’s war of aggression continues, the price of basic food will rise in all of our countries.
As we help Ukraine and its people, we must also pay just as much attention to the hunger crises that were already heading toward catastrophe. In Yemen, the number of people facing famine is projected to increase five-fold by June – and that was a projection before Russia’s war of choice began to affect food prices. And yet, the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen remains less than 40 percent funded.
In Ethiopia, as many as nine million people face severe food insecurity. In Tigray specifically, more than 90 percent of people need aid. In South Sudan, conflict has driven two famines in the last five years and analysts are warning another one could occur in 2022. And in Syria, about 12 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity. But the Assad regime continues using aid as a weapon, heavily restricting UN assistance. These are just a few of the countries where hunger, caused by conflict, poses a severe threat to civilians. But these crises are not inevitable. In fact, we have seen how taking early and anticipatory action has helped prevent famine. We can save lives if we act early, before the worst crisis impacts are felt.
For our part, the United States will continue to deliver lifesaving assistance through USAID and Feed the Future. We will continue to be the single largest country donor to the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization. But every humanitarian organization agrees – and I’ve heard it here from a number of you – we need better and more timely reporting. And the UN can help us with that.
So, I have come today with the same request to Secretary-General Guterres and OCHA that Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has already made: We need two standalone white notes from the Emergency Relief Coordinator to the Security Council each year. These notes will ensure the Council knows where there is a risk of conflict-induced hunger and will help us ensure that we are doing everything we can to prevent one more needless death.
As you said Madam Chair, there can be no excuse for famine today.