The renewal of the international agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain, which depends on the green light from Moscow, is crucial for millions of people in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations warned on Monday. The deal, which expires in July, has seen more than 32 million tonnes of grain shipped out of Ukraine.
Millions of residents in the Horn of Africa – where people are already starving – are dependent on Russia’s green light for the Ukrainian grain export deal, which expires in mid-July, the EU has warned. UN on Monday 26 June.
“If the Black Sea Initiative is not renewed, East Africa (will) be hit very hard,” Dominique Ferretti, emergency specialist at the World Food Programme’s Africa regional office (WFP), said during a video conference from Nairobi.
“A number of countries depend on Ukrainian wheat. Without this wheat, food prices would rise significantly,” he warned, explaining that Ukraine has always been the “breadbasket” of Africa.
In July 2022, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations signed the Black Sea Grain Initiative to allow Ukrainian grain exports despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
After complicated negotiations, this agreement had been extended three times – the last time in May for 60 days until 17 July. But on June 13, Russia again threatened to withdraw, given that certain clauses on the export of Russian fertilizers had still not been respected despite successive UN commitments.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also accused Kiev of using the maritime corridors set out in this agreement to attack the Russian navy with drones.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “concerned” about the future of the deal, and Kyiv assured that he was “not very optimistic”.
Without renewing the agreement, “households will no longer be able to meet their basic needs”, insisted Dominique Ferretti.
The World Food Program, which helps people directly, would also be hard hit, with Ukraine being one of its main suppliers.
The agreement made it possible to ship more than 32 million tons of grain out of Ukraine by boat.
The organization does not have a plan B in place, but they are doing everything they can to preposition food. However, it will be forced to look for other suppliers if the extension of the agreement fails.
“We must be prepared for an increase in food insecurity” in the event of supply difficulties, stressed from Nairobi Brenda Lazarus, of the FAO Subregional Office for East Africa, UN Food and Agriculture Agency.
She explained that wheat occupies a large place in the diet of the population of countries such as Somalia or Djibouti. The FAO is supporting local communities to help them replace wheat in their diet, but it is a “very slow” process, the economist said.
The UN said last week it had “avoided famine” in the Horn of Africa thanks to raising $2.4 billion for this region, which is suffering from a catastrophic drought due to “climate chaos”.
But the situation remains serious. The number of food insecure people has doubled since 2016 in East Africa (Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan), reaching 60 million, said Dominique Ferretti, explaining that this food crisis was mainly the result of conflict, drought and floods.
According to the WFP representative, about 83,000 people, including 40,350 in Somalia and 43,000 in South Sudan, are currently in the “disaster” phase (phase 5), the highest of the food security classification (CIP). “That means these households eat out on average once or twice a week,” he said.
The UN currently refuses to talk about general famine, but its leaders have confirmed on several occasions that populations are already dying of starvation.