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Ripple effect of conflict in Ukraine deepens pandemic woes and worsens hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean

PANAMA CITY – The number of severely food insecure people has shot up by over half a million between December 2021 and March 2022 in Latin America and the Caribbean, as the region struggles to cope with the fallout of COVID-19, now coupled with the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, warns the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

Food insecurity now affects 9.3 million people in the countries where WFP has a presence in the region, according to recent surveys conducted by the organization. In a worst-case scenario, where the conflict in Ukraine continues unabated, the figure could rise to 13.3 million.

“Millions of people could be pushed into poverty and hunger if the conflict in Ukraine continues. The region is already dealing with COVID-19, rising costs and climate extremes,” said Lola Castro, WFP’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “We could return to food insecurity peaks seen during the height of the pandemic, as job and income losses, food inflation and other driving factors batter the most vulnerable people.”

Commodity and energy prices have surged since the conflict in Ukraine. Rising food inflation threatens the region, with several countries highly dependent on cereal imports. Caribbean islands that import a large part of their food are set to feel the brunt as the cost of sea freight soars.

Food and oil price hikes are driving up WFP’s operational costs, as well. Costs associated with purchasing and shipping food were already on the rise due to COVID-19 related supply chain disruptions. WFP buys rice, black beans, lentils and vegetable oil in the region. Average costs per metric ton for these four basic commodities increased 27 percent between January and April 2022, and 111 percent between January 2019 and April 2022. WFP’s cash transfers to vulnerable populations have also been impacted.

“In this year of unprecedented needs, our humanitarian dollar is stretched to breaking point. While the number of hungry people keeps rising, the gulf between our funding needs and available resources continues to widen,” said Castro.

WFP urgently requires US$315 million to cover its operational costs across the region over the next six months.

Amidst rising food insecurity, the region braces itself for a third above-average Atlantic hurricane season starting in June, which has the potential to push more people into hunger. 

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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For more information please contact (email address:

Elio Rujano, WFP/ Panama,
Mob. +507 6677 0608