The United States is stepping forward to buy about 150,000 metric tons of grain from Ukraine in the coming weeks for an upcoming shipment of food aid from ports no longer blockaded by war, the head of the World Food Program told Associated Press.
The final destinations for the grain are not confirmed and discussions continuesaid David Beesley. But the planned shipment, one of several being pursued by the UN hunger-fighting agency, is more than six times the amount of grain that the first ship organized by WFP from Ukraine is now taking people in the Horn of Africa at risk of starvation.
Beasley spoke Friday from northern Kenya, which is mired in a drought that is withering the Horn of Africa region. She sat under a thorn tree among the local women who told the AP that the last time it rained was in 2019.
Their parched communities face another failed rainy season in a matter of weeks that could push parts of the region, especially neighboring Somalia, into famine. Thousands of people have already died. The World Food Program says 22 million people are hungry.
“I think there is a high probability that we will have a famine declaration” in the next few weeks, Beasley said.
He called the situation facing the Horn of Africa a “perfect storm on top of a perfect storm, a tsunami on top of a tsunami” as the drought-prone region struggles to cope with soaring commodity prices. food and fuel fueled in part by the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s long-awaited first aid ship carries 23,000 metric tons of grainenough to feed 1.5 million people with full rations for a month, Beasley said. It is expected to dock in Djibouti on August 26 or 27.and it is assumed that the wheat will be shipped overland to northern Ethiopiawhere millions of people in the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions have faced not only drought but also deadly conflict.
Ukraine was the source of half the grain the WFP bought last year to feed 130 million hungry people. Russia and Ukraine signed agreements with the UN and the Turkish government last month to allow Ukrainian grain exports for the first time since Russia’s invasion in February..
But the slow reopening of Ukraine’s ports and the cautious movement of cargo ships through the mined Black Sea will not solve the global food security crisis, Beasley said. He warned that richer countries must do much more to keep grain and other assistance flowing to the hungriest parts of the world, and he named names.
“With oil revenues being so high right now, record profits, billions of dollars every week … the Gulf states need to help, they need to step up and do it now,” Beasley said. “It is inexcusable not to do it. Particularly because these are his neighbors, these are his brothers, his family.”
He claimed that the World Food Program could save “millions of lives” with just one day of oil profits from the Gulf countries.
China also needs to help, Beasley said.
“China is the second largest economy in the world, and we squat with China”, or very little, he added.
Despite grain leaving Ukraine and hopes global markets are beginning to stabilise, the world’s most vulnerable people face a long and difficult recovery, WFP chief said.
“Even if this drought ends, we are talking about a world food crisis for at least another 12 months”Beasley said. “But in terms of the poorest of the poor, it’s going to take several years to get out of this.”.
Some of the world’s poorest people without enough to eat are in northern Kenya, where animal carcasses are slowly stripped to the bone under ungenerous skies. Millions of head of cattle, a source of wealth and nutrition for families, have died in the drought. Many water pumps have run dry. More and more thousands of children are malnourished.
“Do not forget usresident Hasan Mohamud told Beasley. “Even the camels have disappeared. Even the donkeys have succumbed.”
With so many in need, the help that arrives can disappear like a raindrop in the sand. Local women who qualified for the WFP cash donations described taking the 6,500 shillings (about $54) and sharing it among their neighbors, in one case 10 households.
“The most interesting thing we hear is people saying, ‘We’re not the only ones,'” he told the AP WFP Program Officer Felix Okech. “We are the ones who have been selected (for the brochures), but there are many more like us.” So it’s very humiliating to hear.”
In a small crowd that had gathered to hear stories of children too weak to stand and milk that dried up, a woman at the edge of the woven plastic mat spoke up. Sahara Abdilleh, 50, said she earns perhaps 1,000 shillings ($8.30) a week collecting firewood, traversing a landscape that every day she gives back every day less. Like Beasley, she was thinking globally.
“Is there any country, like Afghanistan or Ukraine, that is worse off than us?” he asked.
(With information from AP)
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