Hunger always follows conflict, and the war in Ukraine will intensify a severe global hunger issue, one that could have consequences for generations to come.

Ukraine is a breadbasket for much of the developing world, where hunger and malnutrition are already most common. Before the war in Ukraine, and even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was facing a major malnutrition crisis — meaning that even if people were eating enough food, they weren’t able to eat enough healthy and nutritious foods. Lack of proper nutrition was — and is — a key contributor to nearly half of all preventable deaths among children under 5 years of age, with 200 million children worldwide under 5 malnourished. Every 11 seconds, a child dies from malnutrition.

And the particularly insidious thing about malnutrition is that it has devastating long-term consequences. The children who survive even short periods of early childhood malnutrition are far more likely to suffer from lifelong health problems and developmental delays.

The problem will only get worse as the war in Ukraine continues. The number of undernourished people globally could increase by 8 million to 13 million as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Not to mention the more than 4 million Ukrainians who are now refugees.

Part of the problem is the issue of food supply and demand. Because of the war, farmers in Ukraine will miss their planting season. On top of that, fertilizer has become more expensive due to the sanctions put on Russia — the world’s largest producer — causing a major decrease in supply.

Countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East are among the most reliant on Ukraine grain, and the war is disrupting their access to it, exacerbating the hunger issues these countries are already facing. Even before the Ukraine crisis began, more than 1 billion people in Africa and almost 1.9 billion people in Asia (including the Middle East) could not afford a healthy diet.


But another part of the hunger and malnutrition crisis is a more complex issue — food prices. As the conflict continues, food prices are rising, and increased food prices impact vulnerable households/families the most. People everywhere — including in America — will cope with rising food prices by skipping meals or choosing less nutritious alternatives to the food they need.

We have to act, and Congress has to lead. But right now, that commitment isn’t there. So far, Congress has not addressed the global hunger and malnutrition crisis. The recent omnibus bill provides for much-needed additional funding to go to humanitarian care efforts in Ukraine. But as laudable as that provision is, it simply isn’t enough to address the scale and nature of the multiple crises the world is facing. Even if we successfully stem the tides of the growing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, the rest of the world will continue to suffer grievously from the cascading effects of the conflict, along with other drivers of hunger and malnutrition such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

Real leadership during this period of conflict will be about more than just sending aid to Ukraine; it will answer the call of the people, especially women and children, who are hungry and malnourished around the world — before it’s too late.

It is also why I am calling on everyone who wants to end malnutrition to urge their representatives to co-sponsor the bipartisan Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021. It will authorize the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to advance targeted programs to prevent and treat malnutrition around the world and require robust monitoring to ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars.

Increasing global nutrition funding will save the lives of tens of thousands of young children and improve the futures of millions more, which is why I would encourage everyone to call on their members of Congress to increase global nutrition funding to $300 million.

When we are faced with challenges that will affect so many lives, I often think of this verse from the Bible: “Do not withhold good from those whom it is due when it is within our power to act” (Proverbs 3:27).

Preventing millions of our world’s most vulnerable from being malnourished is within our power. If nobody steps in to help solve this problem, we’re going to lose entire generations to the tragedy of malnutrition.