Global food crisis ‘will kill millions’ by disease, health executive warns

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Yogyakarta (Indonesia) (AFP) – The head of a major aid organization has warned that the global food crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine will kill millions by leaving hunger more vulnerable to infectious diseases, which could lead to the world’s next health disaster.

A Russian naval blockade of Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea has halted grain shipments from the world’s fourth largest exporter of wheat and corn, raising the specter of shortages and hunger in low-income countries.

The spillover effects of food shortages mean that many will die not only from starvation but from weakened defenses against infectious diseases due to malnutrition, Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, told AFP this week. .

“I think we may have already started our next health crisis,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the G20 Health Minister. “It’s not a new disease, but it does mean that people who are malnourished will be more vulnerable to existing diseases.” Meeting in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.

“I think the combined effect of infectious diseases, food shortages, the energy crisis … we can talk about millions of additional deaths because of this,” he said.

The former British banker who now heads the $4 billion fund said world governments must reduce the impact of the food crisis by providing frontline health care to their poorest, who will be the most vulnerable.

“This means focusing on primary health care so that health care is provided in villages and communities. Hospitals are important but when you face this kind of challenge, the most important thing is primary health care.”


“It was a disaster for tuberculosis,” Sands said.

“In 2020, I’ve seen 1.5 million people globally receive less treatment for TB, which tragically means that several hundred thousand people will die but also that these people will become infected with other people.”

The health expert said that resolving the food crisis is now critical in helping treat the world’s second deadliest infectious disease.

The West and Ukraine accuse Russia of trying to pressure them to compromise by banning vital grain exports to heighten fears of global famine.

The Russian naval blockade of Ukraine's ports on the Black Sea halted grain shipments and led to global food shortages.
The Russian naval blockade of Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea halted grain shipments and led to global food shortages. Oleksandr Zhimanov AFP

Moscow responded by saying that Western sanctions were to blame for the shortcomings of the Middle East and Africa.

Germany will host a meeting on the crisis on Friday under the title “United for Global Food Security,” with the presence of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

“It’s a poor person’s pandemic and that’s why it hasn’t attracted the same amount of investment in research and development,” Sands said, referring to tuberculosis.

“This is a tragedy because this is a disease that we know how to prevent, how to treat, and we know how to get rid of it.”

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