The first grain shipment from Ukraine to Africa since Russia’s invasion which began more than six months ago has docked in Djibouti, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) confirmed Tuesday.
The grain is meant for people in East Africa affected by drought and conflict. Food security experts say it is a drop in the bucket for the vast needs in the worst-hit Horn countries of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, the nation where this first shipment is headed.
The flow of grain from Ukraine to hungry parts of the world is set to continue, with another ship departing Tuesday for Yemen.
The United Nations’ World Food Program mentioned that the first shipment of grain will be shipped overland to northern Ethiopia, where millions of people have been affected by the country’s Tigray conflict, which has now flared up again.
How any of the grain will reach Tigray is now in question as humanitarian deliveries by road and air have been suspended amid the fresh fighting. However, Ethiopia’s neighboring Amhara and Afar regions also are expected to benefit.
WFP says the 23,000 metric tons of grain are enough to feed 1.5 million people on full rations for a month.
But the U.N. has said 2.4 million in Tigray alone are severely food insecure, and millions more in the Horn of Africa region are going hungry because of drought.
Millions of other people in the Horn of Africa region are going hungry because of drought, and thousands have died. Somalia has been especially hard hit because it sourced at least 90% of its grain from Ukraine and Russia before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
According to food security experts, it will take weeks for people in African countries to see grain from Ukraine arrive and even longer to see it bring down high food prices that have been a source of despair and protests in multiple nations.
Far more ships carrying grain from Ukraine have been going to richer places like Europe as existing business contracts are fulfilled.
Since the first days of the war, Ukraine’s southern ports had been blocked by Russia, stopping Ukrainian grain from traveling to the many countries that rely on it.
A UN-brokered agreement struck on July 23 promised to unblock ports on the Black Sea to allow the safe passage of grain and oilseeds, following routes identified by Ukrainian maritime pilots to avoid mines, and with stops in Istanbul to ensure weapons are not being smuggled back into the country.