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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Ships loaded with grain have left Ukraine. Where are they going?

A ship loaded with Ukrainian grain approaching a port in Turkey on Monday.

By Ruth MacLean

Two of the ships that have left ports in Ukraine after months of being trapped there are going to Turkey, carrying corn. One is going to England. One to Ireland. Others are headed to Italy and China.

None of the ships released so far are going to Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia or other countries facing catastrophic levels of hunger.

The United Nations has described three of the shipments from Ukraine, those taking corn to Turkey and Europe, as “lifesaving grain shipments.” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine told his counterpart from Botswana on Monday that his country was “ready to continue being the guarantor of world food security.”

But the released grain has not, so far, gone to the countries where people are in direst need of it. And most of the trapped grain is not food for humans but animal feed, according to The Associated Press, citing experts.

The first ship that left Odesa, Ukraine, last week loaded with grain was headed to Lebanon, the country with the highest rate of food inflation — although that grain was turned away Monday by its buyer, who said it came five months too late, according to the British Embassy in Lebanon.

The United Nations has set up a website to track each ship to leave Ukraine and keeps a running total of the grain tonnage that those ships contain. Ports, including in Odesa and Chornomorsk, need to be cleared so that other ships can get in and load up with grain.

“It’s critically important that we open up the pier space in the Odesa ports so that we can bring empty ships in to be loaded with grain and get them to the places that desperately need it,” said Frederick J. Kenney Jr., U.N. interim coordinator at the Joint Coordination Center, when the first ship left that Ukrainian port for Lebanon.

The JCC was set up in Istanbul as part of the deal struck in late July to get grain shipments moving again. Representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations at the JCC coordinate the transportation of agricultural products. It is not clear, however, whether shipping companies that handled those products before the war will want to run the risk of transporting grain out of mined ports.

A deadly mix of conflict, climate change and COVID-19 is causing a global hunger crisis, and the economic effects of the war in Ukraine have been the last straw. And although U.S. diplomats have repeatedly blamed Russia for food shortages and price increases, experts have said that the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports will barely make a dent in this crisis.

Something that aid workers say could help is a large increase in funding to address humanitarian crises in Africa and elsewhere.

As of Monday night, a U.N. appeal for nearly $2.5 billion in aid for Ukraine had received more than it had requested, according to the U.N. Financial Tracking System. Crises in 14 countries in Africa had received less than 50% of the funding they needed.

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