The conflict in Ukraine is causing a hunger crisis for thousands of innocent people. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said Friday that it is now distributing emergency rations in Donetsk and Luhansk in East Ukraine.
The fighting between the government and pro-Russian rebels has displaced 260,000 people according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. A ceasefire is currently in place in East Ukraine, but is considered fragile.
While the guns are thankfully silent, hunger continues to grow. Significant damage has been done to the country’s food systems.
This is the first time WFP has ever operated in Ukraine. The plea for help came directly from Ukraine’s government to the UN food agency. Carlo Scaramella, WFP Deputy Regional Director, explains: “The fighting in the last few months primarily in the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk and surrounding areas has significantly disrupted access to food and basic services. While many have remained, thousand of other families have fled their homes at short notice, often without anything even for the journey.”
So far about 2,000 people have received ready-to-eat foods like canned meat, fish and vegetables. This number will quickly escalate. WFP plans to feed 18,000 Ukrainians by the end of September.
WFP says recent fighting in Novoazovsk and Mariupol is increasing the need for food assistance. The total number of people in need of food aid may reach as high as 120,000 over the coming months. The success of the ceasefire and peace negotiations will ultimately determine the extent and duration of this new hunger crisis in Ukraine.
Vouchers will be given to some of the displaced families. This will allow food to be purchased in markets and help boost the local economy.
The cost of the WFP Ukraine relief mission is at least $15 million. Getting those funds may prove difficult. WFP, which relies entirely on voluntary donations, is under great strain financing its global operations.
The UN food agency is also leading hunger relief missions in war-torn Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and many other regions. The international community will need to step up to ensure there is enough aid for these countries as well as Ukraine.