BULLA HAGAR, Kenya –
The United States is stepping up buying some 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 The Associated Press.
The final destinations of the grain are not confirmed and discussions continue, David Beasley said. 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 WFP-organized ship from Ukraine is now transporting to 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 thorny tree among local women who told the AP that the last time it rained was in 2019.
Their bone-dry communities face another failed rainy season within weeks that could push parts of the region, especially neighboring Somalia, into famine. Thousands of people have already died. The World Food Program says that 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 upon a perfect storm, a tsunami upon a tsunami” as the drought-prone region struggles to cope with high food and fuel prices caused in part by the war in Ukraine. .
The long-awaited first aid ship from Ukraine is carrying 23,000 metric tons of grain, enough 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 the wheat is supposed to be shipped overland to northern Ethiopia, where millions of people in the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions have faced not only drought but also to deadly conflicts.
Ukraine was the source of half of 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 aid flowing to the hungriest parts of the world, and he named names.
“With oil revenues 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 revenue from the Gulf countries.
China also needs to help, Beasley said.
“China is the second largest economy in the world, and we get very little from China,” or very little, he added.
Despite grain leaving Ukraine and hopes global markets are beginning to stabilize, the world’s most vulnerable people face a long and difficult recovery, the WFP chief said.
“Even if this drought ends, we’re talking about a global food crisis for at least another 12 months,” Beasley said. “But in terms of the poorest of the poor, it will take several years to get out of this.”
Some of the world’s poorest people without enough to eat are found 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.
“Don’t forget about us,” resident 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 WFP cash grants described how they took the 6,500 shillings (about US$54) and distributed it to their neighbors, in one case 10 households.
“The most interesting thing we hear is people saying, ‘We’re not the only ones,'” Felix Okech, a WFP program officer, told the AP. “’We are the ones who have been selected (for gifts), but there are many more like us.’ So that’s very humbling to hear.”
In a small crowd that had gathered to hear stories of children too weak to stand up and the milk dried up, a woman on 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 and traversing a landscape that she gives less and less every day. Like Beasley, she thought globally.
“Is there any country, like Afghanistan or Ukraine, that is worse off than us?” she asked.