For Immediate Release

Office of Press Relations

Press Release


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We are now joined by the USAID Administrator, Samantha Power. Ambassador, thank you for joining us this morning. You just heard Ambassador Markarova say that she believes the Ukrainians are holding their own against the Russians right now. I know you're just back from the region, your impression?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I mean the courage is breathtaking and has inspired the world, mobilizing a degree of solidarity not only among democratic nations, but among countries that the last time around when Russia invaded back in 2014, stood on the sidelines. You see that reflected in the overwhelmingly lopsided UN General Assembly votes condemning Russian aggression. I think our job as humanitarians is to make sure that the massive numbers of people who've been displaced by Russian brutality and by this aggression, that those people have their food, their medical, and other needs met. And we're doing that, of course, when they cross borders into Europe, through UNHCR, and mainly the support of those frontline nations, but also in the slightly more peaceful parts of Ukraine that have not suffered the hand to hand combat that we saw in places like Kyiv. And now liberated areas, those areas that the Ambassador mentioned, when the Ukrainians won the battle of Kyiv, lots of destruction, mines, and all kinds of food and medical needs were left in their wake. And being sure that we can support organizations to sweep in there and get markets up and running as quickly as possible so they can resume what passes for normalcy, even as the fight now moves to the east and remains in the South. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can Ukraine's neighbors handle this influx?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: They're handling it remarkably well. And part of that George as you know, is that the European Union has rallied with massive financial support. But they basically said, “You have access to schools, to health care, to benefits. Come, we'll take care of you, you're European, we're going to treat you like you’re European.”  I think the bigger challenges lie within Ukraine. It goes without saying that in places like Mariupol, that haven't been reached by meaningful humanitarian assistance in two months, where you have people dying of starvation, of dehydration. Or you have, you seen images this week of babies who are wearing diapers that are plastic bags taped together as diapers and women so cold that they're in that steel plant wearing the uniforms of steel plant workers, shaking, having been injured, no access to trauma care. I mean, those are the true horrors that are being perpetrated right now. I think in Europe, again, where there's more infrastructure and where you don't have that destruction, the key is just that it's women and children who have crossed over leaving their men behind. So the longer term questions of how those individuals are integrated, or whether they choose to go back to Ukraine sooner rather than later, that's what we're watching at the moment. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're also seeing the impact spread beyond Ukraine, beyond Ukraine's neighbors, beyond Europe. We're seeing global food shortages all around the world, as the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development, what more can be done to address those shortages?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you for posing that question. It is just another catastrophic effect of Putin's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. I mean, as if the harms in Ukraine weren't enough, you have countries like in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East who get maybe 80, 90% of their wheat or their grain overall from Russia and Ukraine. And you see massive spikes in food prices, food prices right now George globally are up 34% from where they were a year ago, aided substantially again by this invasion. So we've gone to Congress asking for a substantial increase in humanitarian assistance and in order to be able to meet those needs. But we're also active, of course, in more than 80 countries around the world, well and apart from this crisis, so we're working with farmers to also increase their production, so that you actually have more supply brought on market, fertilizer shortages are real now because Russia is a big exporter of fertilizer. And even though fertilizer is not sanctioned, less fertilizer is coming out of Russia. As a result, we're working with countries to think about natural solutions like manure and compost. And this may hasten transitions that would have been in the interest of farmers to make eventually anyway. So never let a crisis go to waste, but we really do need this financial support from the Congress to be able to meet emergency food needs so we don't see the cascading deadly effects of Russia's war extend into Africa and beyond.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Listening to you lay out these consequences. It's hard not to conclude it in some respects, this has already become something of a world war.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Certainly in terms of effects, not confined to the horrors that the Ukrainian people are suffering. But our job is to look at it globally. We want also to maintain the kind of global unity I mentioned at the beginning and that everybody has seen. And Russia tries to take advantage of this and say, “Oh, it's the sanctions that are causing these high food prices.” Not at all. It is Russia's invasion of Ukraine for no reason. And its unwillingness now to come to the negotiating table and get out of Ukraine and get back to Russia. That is what is causing these cascading effects. So we want to meet those effects, but continue to ensure that that pressure is put on the Russian Federation through economic sanctions and through the security assistance so that they finally negotiate a peace. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Ambassador Power, thanks for your time this morning.


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