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Food crisis: the number of displaced could grow even more after reaching a record in May

“What is done to respond to the food insecurity crisis (…) is of crucial importance to prevent more people from being displaced,” said Filippo Grandi, the High Commissioner for UN refugees, during a press briefing on Thursday 16 June. He does not know how many, “but it will be a large number”, underlined the High Commissioner, presenting the 2021 annual report of the organization he leads. The Russian-led war is depriving the world of grain and fertilizer, driving up prices and threatening millions of people around the world with hunger.

“The impact, if not resolved quickly, will be devastating”, warns Mr. Grandi, before recovering: “It is already devastating”. This catastrophe in the making is occupying the ministerial conference of the WTO, meeting in Geneva, as well as the session of the Human Rights Council and the highest authorities of the UN. At the end of 2021, the world had 89.3 million refugees and IDPs, more than twice as many as 10 years ago, including 53.2 million IDPs and 27.1 million refugees. But Russia’s invasion has thrown between 12 and 14 million Ukrainians on the roads to seek refuge elsewhere in their country or abroad. A human flow which for the first time made cross, in May, the bar of 100 million uprooted people in the world.

We must “reach lasting solutions”, or “this dramatic trend” will continue

“Every year over the last decade the numbers have been steadily increasing,” recalled Filippo Grandi. “Either the international community mobilizes to react to this human tragedy, to put an end to the conflicts and achieve lasting solutions, or this dramatic trend will continue”. An enormous outpouring of solidarity – from populations and States – welcomed Ukrainians throughout Europe. A contrast with the treatment often reserved for refugees from other countries at war, Syrians or Afghans.

Mr. Grandi, who remembers the leaders telling him “we are full” when the refugees came from elsewhere, wants to see in it the sign that when we want we can. “I’m not naïve, I understand the context and that it can’t always be like this but it proves the important point that welcoming refugee flows on the coasts or at the borders of rich countries is manageable”, insists t- -he. He also points to the role of politicians who have helped the population to accept Ukrainians instead of insisting that “these people are coming to steal your jobs, threaten your security and destroy your values”.

When it comes to the financial aid available, the contrast is the same. Large sums are immediately available to help Ukrainian refugees, when they seem to be lacking whenever the UN asks for them for serious crises. “We cannot have an unfair response”, as was the case with the anti-Covid-19 vaccines, estimated the High Commissioner, to whom the donor countries affirm “all that we give you for Ukraine c This is in addition to the sums promised for other crises. “At the moment the figures do not show that,” admitted Mr. Grandi, but he wants to believe that the money will come.

The invasion of Ukraine, a terrible blow to international cooperation

Filippo Grandi took the opportunity to reiterate his “great concern” for the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, two regions that combine everything that forces people to flee: conflicts, insecurity, poor governance and the often violent effects of climate change. “The Sahel is really the perfect illustration of how these things happen,” “a really vicious circle of many factors,” Grandi said. For the moment people are fleeing to their country or to neighbours, “but I will not be surprised if with food insecurity on top of that we see people leaving the region”, he warned.

The invasion of Ukraine “dealed a terrible blow to international cooperation”, according to Mr. Grandi. Even if the conflict were to end soon – which he doubts – “the fractures between the West and Russia and even between main members of the Security Council are so serious that they will take a long time to heal”. And “if this is not cured, I don’t know how we are going to be able to manage this crisis”, wonders the High Commissioner.

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