Multilateral efforts needed to stem rising costs of global food staples and decline of livelihood in Ukraine

(New York) – The rising costs of food staples in conflict-affected countries and the dramatic decline of livelihoods for the people of Ukraine were priority topics during a discussion between the International Committee of the Red Cross and a group of New York-based UN correspondents on Thursday 28 July 2022.

The following is on-record information provided to attending journalists and can be attributed to Ms. Laetitia Courtois, ICRC's Permanent Observer to the United Nations.

Concerning the international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, I want to touch on some recent findings we have and divide them in two parts – one focused on Ukraine and the other on the wider repercussions of this crisis in a world facing other major challenges.

The main message here is that the Ukraine crisis is exasperating pre-existing trends and with global inflation hitting record highs, people in areas affected by conflict and instability – as well as impacted by climate change – are feeling the brunt of it. Multilateral efforts are needed to respond to humanitarian crises, prevent further fragmentation, manage economic distress, tackle climate change, and end the global pandemic.

Keep in mind that the Ukraine situation is not unique. Armed conflict is a terrible disruptor. People living in places affected by conflict experience similar hardships. I am highlighting Ukraine and other situations of armed conflict because we have these figures today.

First on Ukraine:
The ICRC Economic Security Analysis section conducts monitoring surveys and interviews in the areas of the world where we operate – all affected by armed conflict and violence. We look at market conditions and what people face in their daily lives when they go to the market or need to access essential services. The analysis is done on a quarterly basis. These figures are from the first and second quarters and compare the same time frame from the year before.

In Ukraine, we have found that:
· Only 58% of the households interviewed have regular access to the market. This is down from the 93% reported compared to the same period in 2021
· With respect to other key community services such as healthcare, schooling, electricity, banking, etc.), only 15% of the respondents reported to have access to them, while this number was close to 80% before the beginning of the hostilities.
· Food and basic non-food items are generally available, although they are found with a lower frequency in the markets of reference than before the conflict.
· 77% of respondents reported on counting on assistance from government/social safety net payments and 12 % reported counting on assistance from Humanitarian organizations.
· 47% of the interviewed household reported having their livelihood negatively affected due to the conflict.
· Coping strategies linked to livelihoods are being eroded, with only 38% of the respondents reporting to not have yet had to resort to negative coping mechanisms.
· When it comes to food consumption, half of the population has had to reduce their consumption or resort to less preferred food over the past months.

The second part to this is what is happening outside of Ukraine. On this we cannot link solely to the Ukraine crisis since there are other factors at work, including inflation, recovery from the ongoing pandemic.

If we look at places where we operate and where we conducted these surveys, we see some stark trends. Again, this is a market price review where we look on a monthly basis at an average of 20 food and non-food commodities per country, disaggregated by location and market. These are basic commodities needed by the affected people to survive.

We have found percentages increases across the board with:

  • Sudan at 187%
  • Yemen 60%
  • Ethiopia 54%
  • DRC 42%
  • Afghanistan 36%
  • Burkina Faso 34%
  • Myanmar 33%
  • Somalia 30%

Each of these show a crisis-level increase in the price of their respective minimum food baskets over the past year.

Additionally, countries in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel have seen a sharp decline in their conditions in the past six months, linked to a combination of poverty, food insecurity and limited livelihoods opportunities, aggravated by conflict escalation and environmental fragility.

For more information, please contact press@icrc.org