As the Black Sea Grain Initiative’s expiration date of 17 July nears, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is cautioning of catastrophic ripple effects for the world's most food insecure should a deal not be reached. The initiative, lasting nearly one year and two renewals later, has stabilised global food prices and delivered 625,000 tonnes (via World Food Program vessels) to countries at risk of famine, such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen. The International Rescue Committee is calling for a long term renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative to maintain this lifeline for the 79 countries and 349 million people on the frontlines of food insecurity. The Black Sea Grain Deal, alongside innovative IRC solutions such as a simplified combined protocol for treating acute malnutrition for children, and the re-energizing of the United Nations’ High-Level Task Force on Preventing Famine are all absolutely essential for addressing global food insecurity. 

The war in Ukraine continues to build a crisis within a crisis, complicating global food supply chains and increasing volatility behind one of the world’s critical breadbaskets. Last month's explosion of the Khakovka dam is one of the many critical infrastructure attacks that continue to destabilise Ukraine's agricultural sector and food stocks, impacting 80% of Ukraine's vegetables and 16,000 people, with environmental damage totalling $50 billion. Ukraine accounts for 40% of global trade in sunflower meal, 35% of sunflower oil, and 5% of wheat, barley, and corn exports. These yields have already decreased by at least a fifth in 2023-24, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Farmers and civilians continue to be affected by the crisis, facing limitations on water, electricity, and other basic needs.  

Meanwhile, agricultural experts estimate that the damage from the dam explosion may extend to up to 500,000 hectares of agricultural land and last for five to seven years. This year's losses due to the dam's destruction are forecasted to reach 4 billion tons of grain and food oil crops, worth as much as $1.5 billion, leaving countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Yemen vulnerable to further climate and economic shocks. Initiatives like the Black Sea Grain Deal secure the rehabilitation and recovery efforts Ukraine needs, as well as maintain the delivery of seamless aid to food insecure nations.

IRC Regional Emergency Director for East Africa Shashwat Saraf said,

“Food security should not be held at ransom. East Africa has been suffering from severe drought and now extreme flooding, resulting in destroyed crops for 2.2 million people who rely on agricultural productivity for their livelihoods. It is critical that the deal is extended for a longer term to create some predictability and stability; we can’t keep going back to the extension every few weeks. The over 600,000 tons of grain delivered to the world's most food insecure nations is a welcome relief. However, it remains disproportionate to the over 30.3 million tons being exported globally to the world's wealthiest nations. The IRC will continue to serve our clients with programmes targeting malnutrition in food insecure countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, regardless of the outcome. 

“With approximately 80% of East Africa's grain being exported from Russia and Ukraine, over 50 million people across East Africa are facing hunger (IPC 3+), and food prices have shot up by nearly 40% this year. It is vital for the international community to not only forge a long-term deal but also build durable solutions to tackle food insecurity.  

“The past two renewals and recent international support (including the United States’ latest announcement of $542 million of humanitarian aid to East Africa) have contributed to successfully preventing a famine declaration in Somalia, but more needs to be done to support patients managing severe wasting, and ultimately alleviated parents' anxiety about finding their child's next meal. Despite the global food inflation rate slightly easing, food prices in places like Kenya remain above government targets. Maintaining this initiative will not only bring more food into the global system but also help us build new solutions in the field to support our clients more effectively and efficiently. If no deal is reached, the clients the IRC serves could face catastrophic ripple effects. Therefore, it is crucial that the international community unequivocally stands behind maintaining Ukraine's grain exports for a third time and for the long term.”