Widespread 'Famine, Death and Starvation' if Ukraine Ports Close: UN

The United Nations on Saturday warned that closing Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea could lead to mass migration, starvation and political instability.

With the supply chain being disrupted due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a food shortage could affect around 400 million people worldwide that rely on the country's grain production, The New York Times reported. The organization's warning comes as a Russian military offensive is anticipated in eastern and southern Ukraine, threatening the sea ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk, Yuzhny, and Mykolaiv.

David Beasley, executive director of the U.N.'s World Food Program, who recently visited Ukraine to look into ways to deliver food to approximately 1 million Ukrainians, said food allocation depends on access.

"This is where the international community has got to come in and make some very serious decisions about protecting ports for humanitarian purposes and opening up ports for the whole world because the whole world is going to pay a price if we don't get the ports open," he said.

U.N. warns of widespread famine in Ukraine
The United Nations warned that closing Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea could lead to mass migration and starvation as it affects the supply chain used to deliver volumes of food from Ukraine to other parts of the world. Above, a local resident reacts as she describes the destruction in the village on April 1 in Svitylnia, Ukraine. Photo by Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images

The director also warned that a global food shortage and a spike in food prices would "spell disaster" for poorer nations.

"You will have famine, death and starvation," he told the Times. "You will have the destabilization of several nations and you will have mass migration."

In another interview with NPR published Thursday, Beasley said that "people will not leave their home if they have food and some degree of peace," adding that if people don't have those two things, then "they're going to find that place where they can feed their family."

The U.N. World Food Program relies on wheat coming from Ukraine since it was the largest food provider by volume to the organization last year, according to NPR.

A funding issue is another challenge that the U.N. is facing as it struggles to meet demands for food supplies. The organization's operating costs of its food program increased by $71 million a month, Beasley told the Times.

"That means we will be feeding four to five million people less a year because of the cost increase alone," he said.

The impact of the war has already begun taking effect on the world, with the U.N. announcing that it's reducing food amounts to northwestern Syria starting next month due to limited funding and rising food prices, Al Jazeera reported.

The director also claimed that he had informed the Kremlin of the U.N.'s concerns about Ukraine's food insecurity, but that the Kremlin had not responded to any of them, according to the Times. "We have made no headway whatsoever," he said.

Food insecurity was already a challenge long before the war as it was fueled by other external factors, but according to Beasley, Russia's invasion has further exacerbated the issue.

"Before the Ukrainian war, we were already seeing a spike in fuel costs, food costs, shipping costs. And just when you think it couldn't get any worse, boom, Afghanistan, and then boom, Ukraine. So now we are already cutting dozens of millions of people down to half rations, like, for example, Yemen. Imagine telling your child, I can only feed you half of what you need this month," he told NPR.

Newsweek reached out to the U.N. World Food Program for comment.