HELSINKI, FINLAND — Finland will support the grain shipments of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) from Ukraine to Somalia through increased assistance to the Horn of Africa, where more than 20 million people need food aid, Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Nov. 8.

Finland is allocating 15.7 million euros (US$16.03 million) in humanitarian assistance to the region. From that sum, nearly 7 million euros ($7.865 million) will be channeled through the WFP to help facilitate the transport of Ukrainian grain to Somalia.

“It is critically important that the shipping of grain from Ukraine to Horn of Africa can continue,” said Ville Skinnari, Finland’s minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade. “We support the World Food Programme in this.”

Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has disrupted food security across the world, raising prices and creating an acute hunger crisis in less-developed nations, particularly in Africa. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deleterious effects of climate change in some regions, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the WFP estimate that up to 222 million people could suffer from acute food insecurity in 53 countries.

A fifth consecutive failed rainy season has made the situation worse in the Horn of Africa, where nations are significantly dependent on Russia and Ukraine for their wheat. Russia and Ukraine account for about 30% of the world’s exports of the staple grain. 

The Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the UN and Turkey with Russia and Ukraine in July has allowed grain to ship from the region, but the agreement is due to expire on Nov. 19. Thus far, Ukraine has exported 14.3 million tonnes of grain in the 2022-23 marketing year, down from 20.6 million in 2021-22. The marketing year runs from July 1 through June 30.

Finland’s humanitarian assistance is delivered by the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR), the Finnish Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The focus of the assistance is food security, but it also is used to help refugees. The Horn of Africa is a major junction of migration, and large numbers of people move back and forth within the region. The decreasing levels of food aid affect 3.5 million refugees in the region as well.

“Our humanitarian assistance will make it possible to give people shelter, clean water and health services,” Skinnari said. “There is a pressing shortage of them both in the region’s communities and in the refugee camps.”