Many countries face being engulfed in a multi-dimensional crisis

The United Nations warns that poor countries are facing food, energy and financial crises at the same time due to the breakdown of supply chains, which is attributed to the instability in the world, including the conflict in Ukraine. Without urgent response, many countries will be engulfed in a multi-dimensional crisis.

Illustrative image (Photo: Reuters)
Illustrative image (Photo: Reuters)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said about 1.7 billion people on earth, a third of whom live in poverty, are facing the severe consequences of disruptionsof food and energy supply. The world is facing a “perfect storm” that threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries, the United Nations Secretary-General said.

The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and the lack of access to adequate resources to finance the recovery in the context of persistent and growing inequality, energy and food insecurity, high inflation, eroding purchasing power, and shrinking growth prospects have pushed many economies into debt.

On April 12, Sri Lanka declared “insolvency”, stating that it could no longer pay its foreign debt worth 51 billion USD while it did not have enough foreign currency reserves to import essential goods. Sri Lanka's central bank had to call on citizens abroad to send money home to help domestic people cover their food and fuel needs during the worst economic crisis since 1948.

Many petrol stations in Sri Lanka ran out of fuel, causing paralysis of public transport. Sri Lanka’s national electricity company increased the daily blackout to 13 hours, due to a lack of oil for thermal power plants. Motorbike owners can only buy up to 4 litres of petrol at a time while individual car drivers can only buy a maximum of 19.5 litres of petrol or diesel.

In South Sudan, the humanitarian crisis is also becoming more serious. According to the United Nations, up to 75% of the country's population, or nearly 9 million people, including 4.6 million children, are in urgent need of aid to survive. Millions of women and children are severely malnourished. Food insecurity is projected to be widespread and worsened by climate change, conflict and migration.

The United Nations also warns that up to 40% of Somalia's population is facing starvation, due to drought, high food prices and lack of financial aid. Some 6 million Somalis are currently severely food deprived, and famine is raging in many parts of the African country.

According to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a global crisis response group on food, energy and finance was established from the very first days of the conflict in Ukraine. To help countries overcome the crisis, the United Nations task force believes that it is necessary to ensure a steady flow of food and energy through open markets. It means lifting all unnecessary exports restrictions and this is not the time for protectionism.

Now is the ideal time to accelerate landmark transition in the energy industry, such as phasing out fossil fuels and accelerating the deployment of renewable energy. In terms of finance, it is necessary to help developing countries regain stability, push for reforms, avoid defaulting, and provide social safety nets for the poorestand most vulnerable while also maintaining critical investments in sustainable development.

Affirming that the current multi-dimensional crisis cannot be solved in piecemeal, country by country, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for global and systemic solutions. The head of the United Nations emphasised the message: Action today will prevent suffering tomorrow. And a just and civilized world cannot let the most vulnerable people around the globe become collateral damage in yet another disaster for which they bear no responsibility.