The head of the World Food Program (WFP) says the United States will buy up to 150,000 metric tons of Ukrainian grain to be sent to hungry areas of the world.
WFP chief David Beasley told the Associated Press on Friday the grain would come from Ukrainian ports that were blocked after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Beasley, who spoke with the AP from northern Kenya, did not name specific countries where the grain would be sent. But the grain shipments are expected to be shipped to African nations facing severe starvation, including Somalia.
Extreme dry conditions, also known as drought, have caused major food insecurity issues across the Horn of Africa, Beasley said. He met with local women in the Kenyan village of Bulla Hagar who said it had not rained in the area since 2019.
The situation in the Horn of Africa has already killed thousands of people, and the WFP estimates 22 million remain hungry. “I think there’s a high probability we’ll have a declaration of famine” in the coming weeks, Beasley told the AP.
He called the problems facing the Horn of Africa a “perfect storm on top of a perfect storm – a tsunami on top of a tsunami.” He said areas suffering from drought are also facing the effects of high food and fuel prices driven in part by the war in Ukraine.
Beasley said the grain the U.S. is buying will be included in an upcoming shipment of food aid. It will be the second WFP-organized ship to leave Ukraine. The first shipment is carrying food aid to people in the Horn of Africa.
The shipment, carrying 23,000 tons of grain, is expected to arrive at a port in Djibouti on August 26 or 27. U.N. officials plan to transport the grain to northern Ethiopia, where millions of people in the Tigray, Afar and Amhara areas face starvation.
The second shipment is expected to contain six times the amount of grain carried in the first one.
Ukraine held about half of the grain the WFP bought last year to feed 130 million hungry people. Russia and Ukraine signed agreements with the U.N. and Turkish government last month to permit exports of Ukrainian grain for the first time since Russia’s invasion in February.
Beasley noted that the slow reopening of Ukraine's ports and the movement of loaded ships across the mined Black Sea will not solve the world food security crisis. He warned that wealthier nations must do much more to keep grain and other assistance flowing to the hungriest parts of the world.
He called specifically on Gulf states and China to provide financial assistance to help countries in need.
“With oil profits being so high right now – record-breaking profits, billions of dollars every week – ... the Gulf states need to help, need to step up and do it now,” Beasley said. “It’s inexcusable not to. Particularly since these are their neighbors, these are their brothers, their family,” he added.
Beasley noted that while China has the second-largest economy in the world, the country provides very little in food aid.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
famine – n. a long period when people living in a particular area do not have enough food and many of them suffer and die
tsunami – n. a high, large wave in the ocean usually caused by an earthquake under the sea and that can cause great destruction when it reaches land
inexcusable – adj. too bad to be justified or accepted
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