A failure to open closed ports in Ukraine to ship grains out will bring millions of people to the brink of starvation, said the executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).
"Failure to open the ports will be a declaration of war on global food security, resulting in famine destabilization of nations, as well as mass migration by necessity," said David Beasley on Wednesday, addressing a food security meeting at the United Nations hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The US is working closely with European allies to try to develop routes to get Ukrainian wheat and corn out of the country after Russia blocked Ukrainian ships from departing with grain that is vital for food supplies around the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.
"It is absolutely essential that we allow these ports to open because this is not just about Ukraine. This is about the poorest of the poor around the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak," Beasley added.
"So I ask President Putin, if you have any heart at all, please open these ports. Please assure everyone concerned that the passageways will be clear so that we can feed the poorest of the poor and avert famine, as we've done in the past, when nations in this room have stepped up together," the WFP chief said.
He noted that Ukraine is a nation that grows enough grain to feed 400 million people and that is now out of production.
It is "critical" that these farms get back in operation, that trucks, trains and ships can move again, he added, stressing that "time is running out."
On Wednesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also addressed how the war in Ukraine, on top of other global crises, "threatens tens of millions of people with food insecurity, malnutrition, mass hunger and famine."
"There is enough food in our world for everyone, but we must act together, urgently and with solidarity," Guterres said.