NAIROBI, KENYA — A ship carrying 23,000 tonnes of wheat from Ukraine to the Horn of Africa docked Aug. 30, the first to make the journey since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion to a poverty-stricken region of the world where millions are suffering from hunger, Reuters reported, citing the United Nations.
The ship, Brave Commander, soon will be followed by another carrying 7,000 tonnes of grain. The total shipment will be unloaded in Djibouti, a country in East Africa, and transported to Ethiopia, where it will be able to help feed 1.5 million people for a month.
This grain barely begins to alleviate the needs of East Africa, where the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said extreme weather, surging food prices and regional conflicts mean 82 million people need food aid across nine countries: Burundi, Djiouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.
The WFP, which said it is working on multiple ships, said this first shipment of grain will be taken overland to northern Ethiopia, where millions of people have been displaced by the country’s Tigray conflict, which has flared up again. None of the grain will be sold commercially, meaning it will not lower food prices for ordinary Ethiopians.
Russia and Ukraine usually supply 90% of wheat imported in East Africa. The Russia-Ukraine conflict sent fertilizer and food prices soaring as Russia blockaded Ukrainian ports. Energy prices also have surged following Western sanctions on Russia, a major energy exporter.
Last month, the United Nations and Turkey brokered a deal between Moscow and Kyiv to unblock three Black Sea ports, making it possible to send hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Ukrainian grain to buyers.
While earlier shipments mostly went to fulfill contracts in other parts of the world such as Europe, Ukraine is strengthening the humanitarian part of the grain initiative, officials said. On Aug. 30, a ship carrying 37,500 tonnes of wheat departed for Yemen, where 16 million people are hungry.