The global food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine will cause “millions of deaths” by exposing the most vulnerable population to infectious diseases, which could lead to a health catastrophe, warned the boss of a large humanitarian organization.
The naval blockade of Black Sea ports has halted shipments from Ukraine, the fourth-largest exporter of wheat and maize, stoking fears of shortages and famine in poor countries.
The repercussions of food shortages mean many people will die of hunger but also the debilitating effects of malnutrition, Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, told AFP this week.
“I think the next health crisis has already begun. It is not about a new pathogen but about the fact that malnourished people are more vulnerable to existing diseases,” he explained on the sidelines of the G20 health ministers meeting in the city. Indonesian from Yogyakarta.
“I believe that the combined impact of infectious diseases, lack of food and the energy crisis … can lead to millions of deaths,” he said.
Governments should try to reduce the impact of the food crisis by prioritizing primary care and care in villages and communities, which will be the most vulnerable, said the former banker who now manages a 4 billion humanitarian fund of dollars.
“It means giving priority to primary care, that is to say care provided in the villages, in the communities. Hospitals are important, but when you face these kinds of challenges, the most important thing is primary care,” he added.
The fight to contain the spread of the coronavirus has diverted resources from the fight against tuberculosis, which killed 1.5 million people in 2020, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
“It was a disaster for TB,” Sands said.
For this health expert, solving the food crisis now is essential to help in the treatment of tuberculosis, the second deadliest infectious disease in the world.
Western countries and Ukraine accuse Russia of trying to pressure them by blocking grain exports amid growing fears of a global famine.
Moscow responded by claiming that Western sanctions are responsible for the shortages affecting the Middle East and Africa.
Germany is hosting an international conference on the food crisis on Friday with the participation of the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken.
For Sands, TB is “the pandemic of the poor and that’s why it hasn’t attracted the same amount of investment in research and development.”
“It is a tragedy because it is a disease that we know how to prevent, cure and eliminate,” he concluded.