Ukraine has a long history of hunger. The Holodomor, or “execution by hunger,” was a genocide committed in 1932-1933 against the Ukrainian people by Joseph Stalin’s regime. An estimated 2.5 million people were killed during this time period that some call the “red famine”. It is then ironic that hunger in Ukraine has come about as a result of the conflicts that took place during the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution.
Ukraine was historically known as Europe’s cornucopia for its rich soil and agricultural output. But as of the first quarter of 2016, Ukraine was the only country in Europe to require and receive assistance from the World Food Programme.
In April 2014, hunger in Ukraine skyrocketed when historical tensions between the eastern and western halves of the country escalated into full-scale military conflict. A ceasefire agreement between the two parties is shaky, with exchanges of fire and shelling continuing unabated.
The economic crisis in Ukraine, coupled with the highest food inflation rates in the world, significantly increased hunger in Ukraine, with families unable to cope with increased unemployment rates. The number of food insecure people in 2017 increased significantly: 800,000 in non-government controlled areas and 410,000 in government-controlled territory.
“Two years of violence, shelling and fear have left an indelible mark on thousands of people in eastern Ukraine,” said WFP Representative in Ukraine Giancarlo Stopponi. “As the conflict continues, we need to reach these people urgently. We appeal to all parties of the conflict to facilitate full and unimpeded humanitarian access to people in need across the country.”
While the conflict continues seemingly without end, there are steps being taken by Ukrainians to help put a damper on the nation’s food insecurity. One key problem has been identified: food waste. About a third of the food produced for human consumption in Ukraine goes to waste. This may be due to gaps in the supply chain. The United Nations is ready to step in and offer guidance, but it is still waiting for an official request for help.
“The first step is to identify the gaps at each step of the supply chain,” said Mykhailo Malkov, United Nations Development Program coordinator in Ukraine. “Then we need to develop the technology and bring in the knowledge of what can be done to reduce losses and food waste, and we need to organize an awareness campaign together with civil society.”