War in Ukraine will spark humanitarian crisis

The Russian invasion will devastate a nation already reeling from years of conflict with Russian-backed rebels. Close to 3 million people in the Ukraine already need humanitarian aid now. That number will climb by the millions.

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Local residents wait to buy water at a store during a water outage in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Local residents wait to buy water at a store during a water outage in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Emilio Morenatti/AP Photos

It was President Dwight Eisenhower who said ”War is stupid, cruel and costly:” That sums up Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his troops into eastern Ukraine, starting a large-scale invasion. Missiles are striking Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv. Lives have been lost and bloody battles will follow if Putin continues to seize more of the country. President Joe Biden says Putin’s war will cause a “catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.”

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Ukraine’s children are suffering. Irina Saghoyan of Save the Children reports “Children are terrified. They are hearing explosions, they are being asked to flee with just the clothes on their backs.....Many children living in this conflict zone already don’t have enough food to eat or clothes to keep them warm.”

This war will devastate a nation already reeling from years of conflict with Russian-backed rebels. Close to 3 million people in the Ukraine need humanitarian aid now. That number will climb by the millions now that Russia has launched a full invasion. Relief agencies will be overwhelmed.

The Catholic Relief Services president, Sean Callahan, says “The freezing winter temperatures, likely damage to health facilities and other vital infrastructure, and the enormity of the civilian population in harm’s way, could lead to suffering on a scale we have not seen in Europe in our lifetimes.”

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service says there must be planning to help large numbers of Ukrainian refugees. Mercy Corps estimates large numbers of displaced persons from the Russian attack.

Where there is war, there is hunger. Children will become vulnerable to deadly malnutrition as food shortages worsen because of the violence. 

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The war will cost everyone, even the Russian people who have to pay for this military campaign. Every bit of money the Russian people send to the battle will take away from their health care, education, infrastructure and food supplies. Sanctions imposed by the U.S. and allies will eventually start to impact ordinary Russians, who will realize they would be better off to have a leader who pursues peace.

Let’s remember that humanitarian agencies are struggling to keep up with hunger emergencies from wars in Yemen, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. CARE warns of severe hunger in Afghanistan and Somalia. The UN World Food Program has reduced rations for war victims in Yemen because of lack of donations.

We must support humanitarian relief agencies who are the lifeline for the hungry in war zones. They are going be needed in Ukraine now.

War is not the road to peace. We must convince Russia to stop its invasion, put down the weapons and build a lasting peace with Ukraine.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger.

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