World Food Program director speaks of possible famine, urges other nations to help.
As ships loaded with grain begin departing from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports after several months of blockade, the United States has purchased 150,000 metric tons of grain to help relieve some of the starvation being experienced in parts of Africa.
The World Food Program announced the purchase Friday as the Horn of Africa continues to experience a life-threatening drought. David Beasely, director of the WFP, was in northern Kenya, where, according to an Associated Press report, it has not rained since 2019.
Beasely said other countries should step up to help relieve the food insecurity in the Horn of Africa, saying he expects an announcement soon of famine conditions there.
The World Food Program says 22 million people are hungry, according to AP.
The dry conditions in the region predate hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, where the war has interrupted the flow of wheat grain, corn, sunflower products and fertilizer, and driven up the price of fuel, making farming and transportation of farm products more expensive.
Russia and Ukraine have been major suppliers of those products to many parts of the world. The February 24 invasion included a blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, and commercial ship traffic had been impeded by Ukrainian mining of the waters.
But a United Nations-brokered deal between Russia and Ukraine in late July has allowed ships to begin hauling grain through the Black Sea, first to fulfill various standing contracts, but also to ship grain to world trouble spots. The first humanitarian delivery of grain, the Bulk Commander, set sail this past week, carrying 23,000 metric tons. It is headed for Djibouti for redistribution among several Horn countries, especially Ethiopia, where a civil war has exacerbated already dire conditions. The shipment is estimated to be enough to feed 1.5 million people on full rations for a month.
The U.S. purchase just announced would be more than six and a half times that amount.
But much more is needed, and Beasley called on Gulf states, now enjoying huge profits from the recent spike in the price of oil, and China to help out.
“With oil profits being so high right now — record-breaking profits, billions of dollars every week — … the Gulf states need to help, need to step up and do it now,” Beasley told AP. “It’s inexcusable not to. Particularly since these are their neighbors, these are their brothers, their family.”
As for China, he said that although the PRC is the second-largest economy in the world, “we get diddly-squat” from Beijing.
They – and other nations – have plenty of time to make up for that, though. Beasley said that even if the drought ends, “we’re talking about a global food crisis at least for another 12 months.
“But in terms of the poorest of the poor,” he added, “it’s gonna take several years to come out of this.”