The first Africa-bound grain ship since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has docked in Pivdennyi port, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said.
“The cargo ship Brave Commander arrived at the Pivdennyi Sea Port. Very soon [Ukrainian] grain will be delivered to Ethiopia,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Twitter on Friday.
The ship docked in the Ukrainian Black Sea port is set to begin loading up with wheat bound for Ethiopia.
It will be the first food delivery to Africa under a plan brokered by the UN and Turkey in late July to unblock grain trapped by Russia’s war on Ukraine and bring relief to millions worldwide.
For months, fighting in Ukraine and a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports meant that grain produced in Ukraine, one of the world’s key breadbaskets, piled up in silos.
That sent global food prices sky-high and led 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 those shipments were animal feed and went to Turkey or Western Europe under previous contracts.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the ship named Brave Commander will carry its wheat to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, where it will be unloaded and sent on to Ethiopia.
“The wheat will go to the World Food Programme’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.”
The ship was expected to take on more than 23,000 tonnes, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure — still only a tiny portion of the 20 million tonnes of grain languishing in Ukraine.
Ethiopia, along with neighbouring Somalia and Kenya, has been facing the worst 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 have indicated that for the first time, a fifth straight rainy season will fail to materialise. 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 [it].”
While one shipment will not solve the crisis, the World Food Programme still heralded it as an “important step” in getting Ukrainian grain out of the country to the worst-affected countries. Ethiopian officials did not respond to requests for comment.