The United Nations (UN) chartered ship Brave Commander will leave Ukraine for Africa in the coming days after it finishes loading more than 23,000 metric tons of wheat at the Ukrainian port of Pudniv, a UN official said.
The ship, which arrived at the port near Odesa, will leave for Ethiopia via the grain corridor through the Black Sea brokered by the UN and Turkey at the end of July.
This will be the first shipment of humanitarian food aid heading to Africa since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
Denise Brown, the UN Resident Coordinator in Ukraine, told reporters that Ethiopia urgently needs grain and the United Nations will work to ensure continued supplies to African countries facing famine and soaring food prices.
“On a very, very personal note, for any mother who might be listening, seeing a child starve is very painful. Hunger, malnutrition is physically very, very painful,” Brown, who previously worked in the Central African Republic, told reporters. “We all have to help these children.”
The shipment was funded by donations from the United Nations World Food Program, the United States Agency for International Development, and several private donors.
“The world needs Ukrainian food. This is the beginning of what we hope is normal work for hungry people around the world,” Marianne Ward, the World Food Programme’s deputy country director, told reporters. The aid agency bought more than 800,000 tons of grain in Ukraine last year.
Ukrainian authorities have not released details of when the Courageous Commander will sail or when it will arrive in Ethiopia, citing security concerns.
A total of 16 ships left Ukraine, according to authorities there, following an agreement with Russia to resume grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports after they were halted for five months due to the war.
“We look at it very positively. We are optimistic,” Brown said in a separate interview with Reuters.
The agreement was reached last month amid fears that the loss of Ukrainian grain supplies would lead to severe food shortages and even outbreaks of famine in some parts of the world.
The first vessel to depart from Ukraine under the agreement, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, was approaching the Syrian port of Tartus on Sunday, two shipping sources said.
Brown said authorities are considering using the railway to increase grain supplies, and Ukraine’s agriculture ministry is also planning to open a new freight route to Poland.
Ukraine has about 20 million tons of grain left from last year’s harvest, and this year’s wheat harvest is also estimated at 20 million tons.
So far, most of the cargo under the deal is grain for animal feed or fuel.
As part of the UN agreement, all ships are inspected in Istanbul by the Joint Coordination Center, where staff from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN work.