The first wartime shipment of UN food aid for Africa reached the Bosporus Strait on Wednesday under a deal backed by Russia restoring Ukrainian grain deliveries across the Black Sea, Agence France-Presse reported.
Marine traffic sites showed the MV Brave Commander taking its cargo of 23,000 tons of wheat across the heart of Istanbul after leaving Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Pivdennyi on Tuesday.
Turkish coast guards expect the Lebanese-flagged cargo vessel to reach the Sea of Marmara on the strait’s southern edge late on Wednesday before sailing to its final destination in Djibouti next week.
The grain will then be loaded onto lorries for delivery to war and famine-stricken Ethiopia under the UN World Food Program (WFP) funded largely by the United States.
“Getting the Black Sea Ports open is the single most important thing we can do right now to help the world’s hungry,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said in a statement.
“It will take more than grain ships out of Ukraine to stop world hunger, but with Ukrainian grain back on global markets we have a chance to stop this global food crisis from spiraling even further.”
Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine contributed to a dire food shortage now confronting some of the poorest parts of the world.
The WFP — heavily dependent on wheat from Ukraine’s war-ravaged southeastern regions — estimates that a record 345 million people face “acute food insecurity” in 82 countries.
It warns that 45 million people are “right on the edge of famine.”
A deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last month allowed the first shipments of grain to start flowing across an established safe corridor through naval mines laid by Kyiv.
Almost all of the first shipments were carrying corn and other foodstuffs that were being stored in Ukrainian ports and silos at the time of Russia’s invasion.
The first small commercial shipment of wartime Ukrainian wheat arrived in Turkey last Sunday.
The deal’s implementation will top the agenda when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hosts his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and UN chief Antonio Guterres in the western city of Lviv on Thursday.