According to the head of the World Food Program, the United States will purchase around 150,000 metric tons of grain from Ukraine in the coming weeks in preparation for an upcoming shipment of food aid from ports that are no longer blockaded due to the war.
David Beasley has stated that the grain’s final destinations are still up for debate. Although the first WFP-arranged ship from Ukraine is currently transporting grain to people in the Horn of Africa who are at risk of starvation, the planned shipment is more than six times the amount of grain that is being transported.
On Friday, Beasley reported from northern Kenya, where the drought is particularly severe. This drought is causing widespread devastation across the Horn of Africa. Under a thorn tree, he chatted with local women, who told the Associated Press that the area hadn’t seen rain since 2019.
In a matter of weeks, their already parched communities could be hit by another failed rainy season, which would likely cause widespread starvation in the region and, in particular, in neighboring Somalia. The death toll is in the thousands. According to the World Food Program, there are currently 22 million hungry people in the world.
Beasley predicted that a famine declaration would be issued in the near future.
As the drought-stricken region of Africa struggles to cope with high food and fuel prices driven in part by the war in Ukraine, he described the current situation as a “perfect storm on top of a perfect storm, a tsunami on top of a tsunami.”
Beasley noted that the first aid ship from Ukraine is carrying enough grain to feed 1.5 million people for a month on full rations. After arriving in Djibouti on August 26 or 27, the wheat will be transported by land to northern Ethiopia, where millions of people are suffering from both drought and deadly conflict in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions.
A solution to the global food security crisis cannot be found in the gradual reopening of Ukraine’s ports or the cautious movement of cargo ships across the mined Black Sea, Beasley argued. And he was not shy about naming names when he made his point that the world’s wealthiest nations need to do more to ensure that food and other aid continue to reach the world’s poorest people.
Beasley remarked that the Gulf states “need to help, need to step up and do it now” because of the high oil profits. “With oil profits being so high right now — record-breaking profits, billions of dollars every week,” Beasley said. It would be unjustifiable not to. More so because these are their neighbors, their brothers, their relatives.
The World Food Program, he said, could save “millions of lives” with just one day’s worth of oil profits from the Gulf countries.
Beasley added that China should pitch in as well.
He went on to say, “China is the world’s second-largest economy, and we get diddly-squat from China,” or very little.
The WFP chief warned that it will be a long and difficult recovery for the world’s most vulnerable people, despite grain leaving Ukraine and rising hopes of global markets beginning to stabilize.
There will be a global food crisis for at least another year, even if the drought ends, Beasley warned. In contrast, “it’s going to take several years to come out of this in terms of the poorest of the poor.”
A local named Hasan Mohamud pleaded with Beasley, “Don’t forget us.” Everything has vanished, right down to the camels. The donkeys have also given in.
With so many people in need, any assistance that is provided can easily be swept away. Local women who received WFP cash assistance reported splitting the money among their neighbors, in one case distributing $54 among 10 households.
WFP program officer Felix Okech told the AP, “The most interesting thing we hear is people saying, ‘We’re not the only one.'” “There are many more like us,” they said, “but we’re the ones who have been selected (for handouts).”
A small group of people had gathered around the woven plastic mat to hear accounts of children who were too weak to stand and milk that had run out. Sahara Abdilleh, 50, estimates that she earns around $8.30 per week by searching for firewood in a landscape that provides progressively fewer logs as time passes. She shared Beasley’s interest in the world at large.
Is there any country that is worse off than us, like Afghanistan or Ukraine?” she enquired.
The Los Angeles Times was the first to publish this story.
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