Global effort must to avert looming food crisis: Bilawal

Cautions lack of action could lead to global food shortages in the coming months

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has stressed upon the international community to work together with combined efforts to overcome the looming global food crisis, impacting the lives of millions of people across the globe.

“Our only chance of lifting millions of people out of hunger is to act together, urgently and with solidarity. Ending hunger is within our reach. There is enough food in our world now for everyone, if we act together,” he added. Bilawal cautioned that unless they solve this problem today, they might face the spectre of global food shortages in the coming months.

“Global hunger levels are at a new high. In just two years, the number of severely food insecure people has doubled, from 135 million pre-pandemic to 276 million today. “If we do not feed people, we feed conflict,” Bilawal added.

The foreign minister said Russia must permit the safe and secure export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports. Alternative transportation routes could be explored – even if they knew that by themselves, they would not be enough to solve the problem. Russian food and fertilizers must have unrestricted access to world markets without indirect impediments.

“I have been in intense contact on this issue with the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Turkey, the US, the European Union and several other key countries. I am hopeful, but there is still a long way to go” he added. The foreign minister said the complex security, economic and financial implications required goodwill on all sides for a package deal to be reached.

Second, he said, social protection systems needed to cover everyone in need, with the right combinations of food, cash and support for water, sanitation, nutrition, and livelihoods.

“Which in turn means, third: finance is essential. Developing countries must have access to liquidity so that they can provide social protection to everyone in need. International financial institutions need to step in with generous investments to prevent a global debt crisis,” he emphasized.

The foreign minister said that there was no answer to the food crisis without an answer to the financial crisis. “Official development assistance is more necessary than ever. Diverting it to other priorities is not an option while the world is on the brink of mass hunger,” he added. Bilawal said the governments must bolster agricultural production and invest in resilient food systems that protect smallholder food producers. Referring to the current high prices of fuel and fertilizers for the farmers, he said that governments must be able to support them with subsidies, and connect them to markets. “Fifth, humanitarian operations must be fully funded to prevent famine and reduce hunger,” he opined.

The foreign minister said the humanitarian organizations have a proven track record of preventing famine, most recently in South Sudan and Yemen. “But they need resources.

And those resources must be used for maximum good, by exempting humanitarian food purchases from taxes, sanctions, and other restrictions,” he added. The foreign minister said that they were closely monitoring the global food security outlook and using their convening power to push for immediate steps.

Also, Bilawal on Thursday said that Pakistan and the United States had a mutual desire to further strengthen their partnership and promote frequent exchanges between the lawmakers of the two countries. In his conversation with Congressman Ami Bera, Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific, the foreign minister said that sustained engagement with the US Congress was essential for giving support to Pakistan-US ties, which had stood the test of time.

Congressman Ami Bera appreciated the foreign minister’s proactive outreach to enhance Pakistan-US relations and thanked Pakistan for facilitating evacuations from Afghanistan.

He said that a stable Afghanistan was in the mutual interest of both the United States and Pakistan. The foreign minister highlighted the urgency of addressing the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.