KYIV, UKRAINE — A ship is nearing Ukraine to pick up wheat for Ethiopia, making it the first food delivery to Africa under an UN-brokered plan to deliver grain trapped by Russia’s war, the Associated Press reported.

Grain has been piling up in Ukraine for months because of a Russian blockade and fighting that started in February. As a result, food prices have skyrocketed and led to hunger in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia.

Several grain ships have left Ukrainian ports the last several days but most were animal feed destined for Turkey or Western Europe.

European Council President Charles Michel announced on Aug. 12 that the first shipment by the UN’s World Food Programme of humanitarian aid for Africa would soon load and then depart.

MarineTraffic, a tracking website, showed the ship headed toward southern Ukraine, AP said.

Michel said the ship would bring grain to Ethiopia, saying “cooperation of all involved actors is key” to alleviating food shortages and hunger around the world.

The Brave Commander was expected to carry more than 23,000 tonnes, according to Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry — a small fraction of the 20 million tonnes of grain that has languished in Ukraine. The ship was expected to dock in Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, Ethiopia, along with neighboring Somalia and Kenya.

Thousands of people across the region have died from hunger or illness this year. Forecasts for the coming weeks indicate that for the first time, a fifth straight rainy season will fail to materialize, AP said.

The World Food Program said this first ship is an “important step” in getting Ukrainian grain out of the country to the worst-affected countries.