A ship due to soon leave a Ukrainian port will bring a “beacon of relief” to some of the tens of thousands of people in the Horn of Africa facing severe food shortages, the New York Times reported.
The Brave Commander, a ship chartered by the U.N. Food Program, docked at the Black Sea port of Yuzhny on Friday. It was to be filled with some 23,000 metric tons of grain, becoming the first such vessel dedicated to bringing grain to some of the hardest hit parts of Africa, where drought and local conflicts have already presented challenges to the food supply chain. The invasion of Ukraine in February only compounded the situation, as Russia has blockaded Black Sea shipping, and Ukraine has sought to protect its southern coast by laying anti-ship mines.
Negotiations between the two warring nations, facilitated by the United Nations and Turkey, led to an agreement in late July to open a humanitarian grain corridor. António Guterres, the UN secretary general, called the pact “a beacon of relief.”
Pope Francis said the deal offered a sign of hope that a just and lasting peace can be found.
Between the two, Russia and Ukraine’s exports of grains and fertilizers have been crucial to many parts of the world. Before the war, Ukraine was providing about 45 million metric tons of grain annually to the world market, according to the United Nations.
Fourteen cargo ships have already left Odesa since the deal was agreed to, but none of them has headed to food trouble spots, as they were already under commercial contract.
The Brave Commander will be sailing to Djibouti, where its precious cargo will be shipped off to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
Some 18 million people have been facing severe hunger in the Horn of Africa.
Another vessel is due to ship an additional 7,000 metric tons soon, the World Food Program said. A spokesman for the WFP, Steve Taravella, said officials hope that the Brave Commander’s cargo will be the first of what will become regular shipments.