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Putin’s War Has Started a Global Food Crisis

The war’s many implications are distressing. Food crises often lead to social unrest, conflict, failed governments and mass migrations. For example, some researchers point to rising food prices as a driver of the Arab Spring upheavals in 2011.

But history, especially food price crises around 2008 and 2010, reminds us that by using the latest data and science, the world can mount a comprehensive response to hunger.

First, nations and institutions must move quickly to save lives. That starts with fully funding the World Food Program and leveraging existing food reserves to help countries in distress. The United Nations, the World Trade Organization and others must also work with countries to prevent food export bans, which are already undermining the global food supply.

Second, the Group of 7 and China must lead a new round of emergency relief from official debt to enable vulnerable countries to respond to hunger. Debt relief was a boon to development in the early 2000s and could free up resources today. Multilateral financing institutions must also take aggressive action, using emergency instruments like a reallocation of International Monetary Fund special drawing rights, which can augment countries’ official currency reserves.

Third, over the long term, the world must help make vulnerable economies more food secure. The U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative, established in 2010 with bipartisan support, has helped transform agriculture in Africa and elsewhere. New investments in similar food systems’ transformation, especially in regenerative agriculture, could make nations more resilient to energy, climate, health and geopolitical shocks.

With a comprehensive strategy, the world can limit the scope of the war’s hunger emergency. At a time of conflict and climate change, it will also begin the long-overdue process of making a more stable, sustainable global food system that can nourish everyone in a crisis-laden era.

Graphics by Sara Chodosh.

Sara Menker is the founder of Gro Intelligence, an artificial-intelligence company that forecasts global agricultural markets and the impacts of climate change. Rajiv Shah is the president of the Rockefeller Foundation and a former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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