As parts of the globe come under increasing strain from lasting effects of the pandemic, the increasing impact of climate change, and conflicts in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, food security is now rightly at the top of the global agenda, and I share the concern for all those threatened by food crises, particularly those facing famine. Indeed, I was deeply concerned to learn that the Global Report on Food Crises has indicated that, by September 2022, over 201 million people were in 'crisis or worse' phases of acute food insecurity across 45 countries.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is only exacerbating the world food crisis, which is hitting the poorest hardest, particularly in East Africa. Prior to Russia's invasion, Ukraine’s food exports were feeding up to 400 million people worldwide, but because of Russia’s unlawful actions - including attacks on infrastructure across Ukraine, naval blockades and the looting of grain - the country spent months almost entirely unable to export its produce.
I am proud that the UK remains steadfast in its support for Ukraine. Alongside fellow G7 members, HM Government (HMG) has called on Russia to end all activities that impede Ukrainian food production and export. To this end, I welcome that grain shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports were able to resume on 1 August. The UK and its allies pushed hard for the UN grain initiative and the world is watching to ensure that Russia complies, so food continues to flow from Ukraine and feed the hungry.
Even before the war, however, millions of people around the world were suffering from food insecurity and different forms of malnutrition. It was therefore right that, under our G7 Presidency, the UK secured the first ever famine prevention compact. I am delighted that Germany is now picking up the baton and taking this further with the Global Alliance for Food Security. As part of this Alliance, the G7 have agreed a collective commitment to provide $4.5 billion to mitigate the scale of the global food security crisis.
With international partners, the UK has also secured the largest ever World Bank commitment to low-income countries, releasing $170 billion of support over the next 15 months, including $30 billion for food security. This complements the commitment from over 50 WTO members to keeping food markets open, predictable, and transparent.
In addition, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has a comprehensive action plan to address food insecurity, key elements of which are: supporting fertiliser availability; expanding disaster risk finance to help protect against future droughts; lobbying key countries to lift trade restrictions and encouraging others not to impose restrictions; and mobilising investments in food and agriculture productivity and resilience.
The UK will also send £3 billion worth of humanitarian aid over the next three years to the world's most vulnerable countries, including Yemen and Afghanistan. Stepping up our support even further, the UK pledged an additional £372 million in aid on 24 June to provide immediate and longer-term relief to countries on the frontline of this crisis. This has subsequently been bolstered by over £37.65 million in urgent humanitarian assistance, which the UK is providing to areas where conflict, climate change and extreme hunger is causing the most suffering, focussed largely across the Sahel and West Africa.
Going forward, I am assured that Ministers will continue to work across international fora, including the newly created Global Alliance for Food Security, to seek joint solutions to those problems worsened by the overlapping crises of war, pandemic and inflation, and enhance the coherence of the international response.