Ukraine war sends Middle East food prices soaring: Guterres

3 min read
An internally displaced family in the Al-Dhale’e Governorate of Yemen. UNOCHA
  • The UN chief issued the warning during a meeting on the expanding cooperation between UN and the 22-member League of Arab States
  • At the meeting, ambassadors of the Arab countries adopted a presidential statement praising the increasingly critical partnership

The world must not forget millions of people in need across the Middle East and North Africa, UN chief António Guterres told the Security Council on Wednesday.

This, he said should especially not happen amid growing donor fatigue and a brutal war in Ukraine that has diverted the world’s attention.

Guterres issued the warning during a meeting on the expanding cooperation between UN and the 22-member League of Arab States, with ambassadors adopting a presidential statement praising that increasingly critical partnership.

Touching on the various conflicts and humanitarian hotspots across the region, Guterres described the UN’s work — in partnership with League — in countries ranging from Lebanon to Syria, to Somalia.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres. UN

“We remain united in our pursuit of multilateral answers to the cascading challenges facing the Arab world and beyond,” he said.

He put a spotlight on fresh political turmoil in Libya, the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the dire humanitarian crisis still facing some tens of millions of people in Yemen.

In addition, the repercussions of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor are already being felt, as many of the region’s countries import at least half their wheat from either of these two countries.

Supply chains have been seriously disrupted, with food, fuel and fertilizer prices skyrocketing.

“In addition, we are seeing clear evidence of this war draining resources and attention from other trouble-spots in desperate need,” the UN chief said.

Suffering in Yemen, risk in Libya

Warning that the deteriorating conditions are hitting poor people hardest, Guterres also stressed that desperation and neglect could “plant the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe.”

At a humanitarian funding conference last week, he said he was deeply disappointed that the UN appeal for assistance received less than a third of the pledged funds so urgently needed.

“I cannot overstate the severity of the suffering of the people of Yemen,” he said.

The UN chief also noted that 20 million people there need lifesaving humanitarian aid and protection, appealing to the generosity of the members of partner countries, especially those in the region, in that regard.

Turning to the situation in Libya, he welcomed the League’s engagement in helping to preserve the unity and hard-won stability achieved since the signing of a crucial ceasefire agreement in October 2020.

He also urged the Arab League members to continue prioritizing agreement on a comprehensive political process towards a new peacetime constitution.

Syrian people ‘feel abandoned’

Across the region, additional situations on the UN agenda range from economic challenges in Lebanon, to the ongoing political transition in Sudan, to the conflict in Syria, which marks its 11th anniversary this month.

Guterres told the council that the UN and the League of Arab States stand united in support of the Syrian people, “who feel abandoned by the world” as more than a decade of war has left the country in ruins.

The only way to break that deadlock is through a credible political process that forges a sustainable peace and lets the voices of all Syrians be heard, he stressed.

In addition, the UN chief underscored the need to remain committed to finding a path for the peace process to flourish between Israelis and Palestinians, and to end Israel’s longstanding occupation.