Statement on the war in Ukraine – Best-ReMaP Joint Action

As nutrition and public health experts contributing to the Best-ReMaP Joint Action, we are shocked and saddened by the ongoing war in Ukraine. In this statement, we intend to draw attention to the effects of the war from the perspective of food security, inequalities and nutrition.

Everyone living in Europe, particularly children, have the right to sufficient and healthy food. Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine is not only resulting in the death of thousands of innocent civilians including children but also disabling food access in Ukraine, with the risk of a life-long impact on the health status of millions. This war has a heavy impact also beyond Ukraine, by disrupting agriculture, commercial channels and international trade in Ukrainian agricultural products, leading to food shortages and even more acute famine.

Apart from the disruption of commercial channels that affect food accessibility, the war has contributed to sharp increases in food prices, which were already on the rise. This crisis is having a particularly crippling effect on those already living in poverty, while more will be pushed into poverty. We call for the strongest effort to be made by the European governments to mitigate this potentially catastrophic effect on those most vulnerable in our communities.

We also draw the attention of all European citizens to assume their responsibility in safeguarding food systems during this critical period in history. Buying excess food and storing unnecessary supplies may lead to shortages of first-line products in the market and runs the risk of products expiring and being thrown away. We also call on the public to choose quality over quantity and support sustainable production by buying locally produced wherever supplies and budgets permit this.

We call on policy makers in Europe to make their best efforts to ensure – even during the current war – that healthy food is available and affordable without compromising on the sustainability commitments, as proclaimed by the European Green Deal. Putting these on hold would risk long-term impacts on health equity and well-being for all consumers in Europe. In addition, we underline the necessity of developing adequate food system indicators to measure the food system sustainability. Such indicators will help guide all stakeholders in the food supply chain, particularly for post-war recovery and resilience-building.

In summary, we wish to call on policy makers and the general public to the urgent, wider health impacts of this war, and we call on governments to consider these while working to end the war in Ukraine.

The Work Package leaders of the Best-ReMaP Joint Action funded by the Third Health Programme of the European Union.