The ‘MV Brave Commander’, with 23,000 tons of wheat on board, during its passage through the Bosphorus Strait on its way to Djibouti, on August 17.YASIN AKGUL (AFP)
A ship chartered by the United Nations and loaded with 23,000 tons of wheat from Ukraine docked in the port of Djibouti on Tuesday, thus becoming the first humanitarian aid ship to carry cereals from this European country to Africa since the war began more ago. six months, according to the World Food Program (WFP). The grain will be shipped in the next few days by road to Ethiopia, a country where some 20 million people suffer from food insecurity due to the conflict that has been going on since November 2020, which was reactivated last week, and the historic drought in the Horn of Africa, which also affects Kenya and Somalia.
“We have officially docked!” David Beasley, executive director of the WFP, congratulated himself on Twitter on Tuesday: “Our first ship to transport Ukrainian grain since February has just arrived in Djibouti. Now, let’s unload this wheat and go to Ethiopia.” The Lebanese-flagged bulk carrier MV Brave Commander set sail on August 16 from the Ukrainian port of Pivdenni, on the Black Sea, and it has taken two weeks, sailing through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, to reach the port of Djibouti , located in the Gulf of Aden.
The cereal export operation has been possible thanks to the agreement reached on July 22 in Istanbul between Russia and Ukraine, with the mediation of Turkey and the UN, to unblock the Ukrainian grain that had been stored in the ports of this country since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Said pact included the release of up to 22 million tons held in said ports thanks to the creation of a corridor in the Black Sea, which is under the control of the Russian Navy. The commitment included that Moscow would not attack the ships as long as they were not used to bring weapons into Ukraine.
According to the United Nations, 44% of imported wheat in Africa comes from both countries in conflict, 32% from Russia and 12% from Ukraine. This strong dependency and the cut in supply due to the war was already causing a shortage of cereals on the international market and worsening hunger in Africa, already punished by various conflicts, historic droughts due to climate change and the economic crisis caused by covid-19. . For all these reasons, the unblocking of cereals was an absolute priority for the continent that the current president of the African Union, the Senegalese Macky Sall, demanded on June 3 from Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, during the meeting that both kept in Sochi.
Following the agreement reached on July 22 between Russia and Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov undertook an African tour that took him to Egypt, the Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Ethiopia, during which he endeavored to reassure the leaders Africans on cereal. “The speculations of Western and Ukrainian propaganda that Russia is supposedly exporting hunger are absolutely unfounded,” said the Russian Foreign Minister at the time. A third of African countries refused to vote against Russia in the first United Nations resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine, a reflection of how Moscow has been gaining ground in a continent with which it has been strengthening ties in the last decade. .
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It will take at least a week to unload the grain from the holds of the MV Brave Commander and move it to Ethiopia and it is just the first step in the operation that aims to unlock all the grain held in Ukrainian ports, always threatened by hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, but the WFP considers that this Tuesday has been a very important day.
The humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa is now reaching a historic dimension and the number of people in need of help has risen from around 13 million at the beginning of the year to around 80 million today. The reasons that have led to this crisis are the combination of a devastating drought, the worst in the last 40 years, the economic recession and inflation derived from the two years of trade restrictions due to covid-19, and the conflicts in areas of Somalia and Ethiopia, reasons to which the shortage of cereals due to the war in Ukraine has been added. According to the United Nations, child malnutrition has skyrocketed, as has the risk of outbreaks of diseases such as meningitis, measles and cholera. The World Health Organization made an appeal in early August to collect 124 million dollars (a sum equivalent in euros) to alleviate the effects of this emergency.
In addition, the war in Ethiopia, where a humanitarian ceasefire had been reached five months ago to allow the distribution of aid in the Tigray region, was reactivated last week after the breakdown of the truce of which the Army mutually accused Ethiopian and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the two opposing sides in the conflict. Fighting broke out in the northern Amhara region, bordering Tigray.
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