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Shielding Poor Children from the Looming Food Crisis

The war in Ukraine is causing further disruption to the global food supply and making it harder for the world’s poorest households to afford adequate nutrition. For the world's most vulnerable children, school-based meals are a vital social-protection tool that now need to be expanded.

LONDON – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to cause more disruption to the global food system by dramatically increasing the cost of staple foods and the energy required to transport them. The Black Sea region is responsible for the export of at least 12% of global food calories, so cutting off access to it will have far-reaching effects.

Food prices already were soaring as a result of post-pandemic market imbalances and supply-chain pressures, together with climate-related output losses. By the end of last year, the crunch in the global market for wheat and maize had driven up food inflation in Sub-Saharan Africa by 11%. Now, poor countries face another shock at a time when they have little room to accommodate it.

Even before the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, vulnerable households in developing countries committed a large share of their budgets to food. Additional increases in the cost of food could lead children in these households to suffer significant and irreversible nutritional losses. They could go to school hungry or even drop out to help supplement their families’ income. Given the massive learning losses children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) suffered due to pandemic-related school closures, any additional disruption could have devastating consequences.

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