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Ukraine dam breach will sow huge problems for food security – UN’s Griffiths

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – The United Nations on Tuesday said the breach of the huge Soviet-era dam on the Dnipro river in Ukraine will have a huge impact on global food security, lead to a rise in food prices and could cause drinking water problems for hundreds of thousands.

The dam, part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, was breached in the early hours of June 6, allowing some of the 18 cubic kilometres of water it held back to surge down across a swathe of southern Ukraine.

It is unclear exactly what caused the breach, although Norwegian seismologists and U.S. satellites picked up what looks like an explosion. Ukraine and Russia blamed each other for blowing it up.

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told the BBC that the impact on food security could be significant.

“This is a breadbasket – that whole area going down towards the Black Sea and Crimea is a breadbasket not only for Ukraine but also for the world,” Griffiths told the BBC. “We’re in difficulties already on food security but food prices, I’m sure, are bound to increase.”

“It is almost inevitable that we are going to see huge, huge problems in harvesting and sowing for the next harvest. And so what we are going to see is a huge impact on global food security – that’s what’s going to happen.”

Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s key agricultural producers, and major players in the wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed and sunflower oil markets.

He said that up to 700,000 people depended on the reservoir behind the dam for drinking water. Without clean water, he said, people would be susceptible to disease and that children were most vulnerable in such a situation.

Griffiths also said that damage of this scale to civilian infrastructure was completely contrary to international humanitarian law including the Geneva conventions.

“That’s self evident. Whoever did it has breached the Geneva conventions,” Griffiths said.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Editing by Louise Heavens)

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