The first vessel carrying grain for the people in Africa from Ukraine as part of a recently signed deal mediated by Türkiye and the United Nations to prevent a global food crisis docked in Ukraine on Friday, the United Nations said.

The MV Brave Commander, which left Istanbul on Wednesday, arrived in Yuzhne, east of Odessa on the Black Sea coast.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the will carry its wheat to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, where it will be unloaded and sent on to Ethiopia.

Stephane Dujarric

“The wheat will go to the World Food Program’s operations in Ethiopia, supporting the Horn of Africa drought response as the threat of famine stalks the drought-hit region,” he said. “It is one of many areas around the world where the near-complete halt of Ukrainian grain and food on the global market has made life even harder for the families already struggling with rising hunger.”

For months, fighting and a Russian blockade meant grain produced in Ukraine, known as the world’s breadbasket, piled up in silos, sending food prices sky-high and leading to hunger in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. In recent days, several ships carrying grain have left Ukrainian ports under the new deal – but most of the shipments were of animal feed and went to Türkiye or Western Europe.

But on Friday, European Council President Charles Michel said that the first shipment by the U.N.’s World Food Programme of humanitarian aid for Africa would soon load and then depart, which is being brought to life through the Türkiye-brokered grain corridor agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and the U.N. In the afternoon, MarineTraffic, a tracking website, showed the ship headed toward southern Ukraine,

The ship is set to bring grain to Ethiopia. Even though the European Union is not a direct party to the agreement, Michele urged that “cooperation of all involved actors is key” to alleviating food shortages and hunger around the world. The Brave Commander is expected to carry take more than 23,000 metric tons, according to Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry – only a tiny portion of some 20 million tons of grain that has languished in Ukraine. The ship was expected to dock in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.

Charles Michel

Ethiopia, along with neighboring Somalia and Kenya, is in the grips of the driest drought in four decades in the Horn of Africa. 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. Millions of livestock, the basis of many families’ wealth and food security, have died.

“Millions of households will struggle to cope with these shocks” in Ethiopia, according to a new assessment by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. “Food assistance needs are at record levels, with up to 15 million people in need of food assistance.”

While one shipment is not expected to have a major effect on the crisis, the World Food Program heralded it as an “important step” in getting Ukrainian grain out of the country to the worst-affected countries.

About İsmail Uğural

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