People beginning to die of starvation in Mariupol, US tells United Nations

American official also warns of growing food security crisis eleswhere due to impact of war

The mayor of Mariupol, Ukraine has called for an evacuation of the city's remaining residents, estimated to be around 160,000 people, to allow them to escape a potential human catastrophe after weeks of Russian bombardment. Video: David Dunne/Reuters

People in parts of Ukraine, trapped by the Russian invasion, are beginning to starve to death, the US has maintained.

A senior US official also warned the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday of a potential food security crisis in some parts of north Africa, the middle east and Asia as a result of disruption to food exports as a result of the war in Ukraine.

US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman said up to 13 million more people worldwide "may be pushed into food insecurity as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine".

She said people under siege in the city of Mariupol in Ukraine were starting to die from hunger.


“Russian forces have laid siege to cities like Mariupol, where citizens have been left without food, water, heat, or electricity in the depths of winter. People have resorted to melting snow for drinking water. One mother told reporters she could feed her three daughters only a spoonful of honey a day as they hid from Russian bombs. City officials say people are beginning to die – to die – of starvation. Think about that. Five weeks ago, Mariupol was at peace. It was, in fact, a bustling port city, a grain exporter that helped feed the world. Today, its residents are dying because of president Putin’s war of choice.”

Ms Sherman said the World Food Programme warned that 45 percent of the people in Ukraine – nearly half of the people living in one of the world's great breadbaskets - were concerned about having enough to eat.


However she said the impact of the war was being felt far beyond Ukraine’s borders, “as well – with some of the most immediate and dangerous implications for global food security”.

She said that Ukraine and Russia were both major agricultural producers. She said 30 per cent of the world's wheat exports typically came from the Black Sea region, as did 20 percent of the world's corn and 75 percent of sunflower oil.

"But Russia has bombed at least three civilian ships carrying goods from Black Sea ports to the rest of the world, including one chartered by an agribusiness company. The Russian Navy is blocking access to Ukraine's ports, essentially cutting off exports of grain. They are reportedly preventing approximately 94 ships carrying food for the world market from reaching the Mediterranean.

Ms Sherman said many shipping companies were now hesitant to send vessels into the Black Sea, even to Russian ports, given the danger posed by Russian forces.

"Already food prices are skyrocketing in low- and middle-income countries as Russia chokes off Ukrainian exports. Across the Middle East and Africa, already-high prices for staple commodities, including wheat, have risen between 20 and 50 percent so far this year. We are particularly concerned about countries like Lebanon, Pakistan, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and Morocco, which rely heavily on Ukrainian imports to feed their populations."

She said the world was already facing a food security crisis well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

"The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis pushed millions of families into poverty. Countries around the world are grappling with drought and other disasters made worse by climate change. As we heard from (its) executive director (David) Beasley, the World Food Program is already feeding 138 million people in more than 80 countries – from Ethiopia to Afghanistan, South Sudan to Yemen, Nigeria to Syria. But now, Putin's war is driving up the costs of providing food assistance."

She said the he Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimated that as many as 13 million more people worldwide may be pushed into food insecurity as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent