Ship carrying UN wheat for Ethiopia leaves Ukraine port

KYIV: A UN-chartered ship carrying 23,000 tons of Ukrainian grain has set sail for Ethiopia, one of the five countries considered to be at highest risk of starvation. The Liberia-flagged MV Brave Commander departed from the Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Yuzhne, east of Odesa, on Sunday, a regional official said.

It plans to sail to Djibouti, where the grain will be unloaded and transferred to Ethiopia under a UN World Food Programme initiative. Ukraine and Russia signed an UN and Turkey-brokered deal in Istanbul on July 22 to restart grain shipments through the Black Sea, which had been disrupted by the war in Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion in February.

Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s biggest grain exporters. The UN said in June that 750,000 people in Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Yemen are facing starvation. More than 400,000 of those at risk are in Ethiopia, according to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the WFP. “The capacity is there. The grain is there. The demand is there across the world and in particular, these countries,” WFP Ukraine coordinator Denise Brown said.

“So, if the stars are aligned, we are very, very hopeful that all the actors around this agreement will come together on what is really an issue for humanity. So, today was very positive.”  “I hope that other ships chartered by the (UN’s) World Food Programme will come to our ports. I hope there will soon be two, three more ships,” Kubrakov added.

The minister earlier said on Twitter that the ship was fully loaded and ready to leave but did not say when it would depart. The MV Brave Commander docked at the Pivdennyi port, close to Odessa, on Friday. According to the Ukrainian infrastructure ministry, it will leave for Djibouti from where the grain will then be sent to Ethiopia.

It will be the first shipment of food aid since Kyiv and Moscow agreed a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey last month to unblock Black Sea grain deliveries after Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine. The agreement lifted a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports and established safe corridors through the naval mines laid by Kyiv. “We are definitely planning other ships to leave the ports of Ukraine, to help people around the world… This should just be the first of many humanitarian ships to leave the ports,” Marianne Ward, WFP deputy country director in Ukraine, told journalists.

The first commercial ship carrying grain left on August 1 and in total, 16 vessels have departed from Ukraine since the July deal, according to Kyiv. But no UN vessel carrying humanitarian food assistance has set sail. Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s biggest grain exporters.

The WFP says a record 345 million people in 82 countries face acute food insecurity and up to 50 million people in 45 countries are on the brink of famine and risk being tipped over the edge without humanitarian support. – Agencies

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