From war to hunger: 2022 in review

The war in Ukraine and its impact on global energy and food prices dominated the news in 2022, shining a light on the need for science-based solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early February prompted global grain prices to soar—in a world already reeling from COVID-19 and the climate crisis.

The role of the two countries in global energy and grain exports meant the conflict would have huge repercussions for food security, a SciDev.Net readers’ conference heard in March.

Ukraine and Russia together accounted for 30 per cent of global wheat exports, 20 per cent of maize, and almost 80 per cent of sunflower oil. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that the war could lead to as many as 13 million more people being undernourished in 2023.

Countries in Africa and the Middle East that rely heavily on Ukraine for their grain imports grappled with spiraling prices, after millions of tonnes of wheat and maize were trapped in Russia and Ukraine, Friederike Greb, a World Food Programme economist, told the online event. The war threatened to cause “huge collateral damage on food security”, she warned.

“We have seen backsliding in the wake of the war in Ukraine”

Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy for Climate Action Network International and global director for engagement and partnerships at the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative

In October, SciDev.Net took a deeper dive into the extent of this food crisis, signalling: ‘Global starvation looms as food price rises intensify’.

Rises in staple food prices around the world were pushing family budgets to breaking point, the investigation revealed, with millions on the brink of starvation.

The report laid bare the urgent need for long-term policies to future-proof global food systems.

In a separate article, Laura Owings reported on the farming innovations rooted in nature and plant science that could provide some answers: agroforestry, locust-thwarting biopesticides, and genomic techniques to improve crop resilience being explored in some global South countries.

Climate funding pledges

The consequences of the war in Ukraine were not just limited to food, however. The war also affected commitments to climate funding, with a shift of focus from climate action to greater energy security, a SciDev.Net conference heard in November.

“We have seen backsliding in the wake of the war in Ukraine,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy for Climate Action Network International and global director for engagement and partnerships at the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative.  The shift from climate to energy had led to a “deeply worrying” increase in fossil fuel exploration, particularly in Africa, he added.

Global commitments to achieve the US$100 billion climate finance target for vulnerable countries also remained off track as the world geared up for COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

Billions of people are living in hotspots of high climate vulnerability in Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, and small island developing states, an adaptation assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had warned in March. It highlighted the critical need for investment in adaptation measures such as early warning systems, as extreme weather events intensify.

Ahead of the COP27 negotiations in November, about 400 civil society organisations jointly pushed for the inclusion of loss and damage—the cost of recovering from climate impacts—on the official agenda, and their efforts paid dividends.

Wealthy nations agreed to establish a loss and damage fund to compensate countries hit by climate catastrophes, “a warning shot to polluters that they can no longer go scot-free with their climate destruction”, according to Singh.

Additional contributions totaling more than US$$230 million were also made to the Adaptation Fund, established in 2001 to finance programmes in lower-income countries. And governments agreed to develop a framework to advance the Global Goal on Adaptation, in order to increase climate resilience among the most vulnerable.

Science unfazed

While the war in Ukraine gathered pace, the COVID-19 pandemic was in decline, but significant gaps remained in access to vaccines. The World Trade Organization (WTO) made a landmark decision in June to waive certain intellectual property rules in order to widen access to COVID-19 vaccines but global health campaigners said the waiver did not go far enough.

The World Health Organization meanwhile established an mRNA Technology Transfer Hub in South Africa to enable low- and lower-middle income countries to produce their own mRNA vaccines. It came as a new public health emergency emerged in the form of Monkeypox, later to be named Mpox.

Progress also continued in other areas of global health. Earlier this month SciDev.Net reported on a new, quicker, affordable and easy-to-use tool to detect malaria, which doesn’t require a blood test.

The researchers from Australia and Brazil hope that the device, which uses an infrared signature through a mobile phone or computer to detect malaria, could help meet the UN goal to reduce malaria incidence and mortality rates by at least 75 per cent by 2025.

The hand-held, smartphone-operated, near-infrared spectrometer works by shining infrared light for about five seconds on a person’s ears, arms, or fingers to detect changes in the blood caused by malaria.

It came as researchers said they planned to roll out a new malaria vaccine, R21, next year after tests on children in West Africa found it to be up to 80 per cent effective.

Meanwhile, a Nigerian robotics engineer told SciDev.Net how she aimed to quicken breast cancer diagnosis with her smart-bra invention.

And in agricultural research, a gene discovery that could lead to new treatments for cassava pests varieties was hailed as a boost for food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The discovery published in Nature Communications in July, would be a huge shot-in-the-arm for 800 million Sub-Saharan Africans who consume cassava as their staple — at a time when grain imports remain constrained.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Global desk.

Source link

#war #hunger #review

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *