The International Rescue Committee is making an urgent plea for immediate solutions to solve bureaucratic and safety challenges at Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to ensure grain can reach extremely food insecure people in East Africa and around the world. 

Marysia Zapasnik, Ukraine Country Director for the International Rescue Committee, said,The IRC urges the international community to take all steps necessary to facilitate immediate safe and efficient humanitarian pathways for grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. 20 million tons of grain are ready for export to countries in dire need. With 18 million people on the brink of famine in East Africa, each passing hour, millions of people are struggling to access basic food supplies. The international community should urgently work with maritime insurers to provide guarantees that will enable the movement of grain quickly. At the same time attacks on the port must immediately stop and commitments made to guarantee the safe passage of ships must be honoured. 

“As with any diplomatic breakthrough, the devil is in the details. Sustained high level engagement to overcome the security and bureaucratic challenges that threaten to undermine the fragile UN agreement are crucial. 

“The idea that millions could starve because we can't sort bureaucratic challenges is unfair and solvable. Each day of these 120 days that go by is a devastatingly wasted day where more and more innocent people across East Africa and elsewhere will die of hunger. The IRC works in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, where 1 in 7 people are at risk of extreme food insecurity. 

“In just one of IRC’s nutrition clinics in Mogadishu, from April to May, the IRC has seen a 265% increase in admissions for children under 5 suffering from severe malnutrition. IRC teams on the ground report that people have already started dying from starvation and the window to prevent mass deaths is rapidly closing. Food prices worldwide have already skyrocketed by 41%, and an additional 47 million people are projected to experience acute hunger this year, according to a recent IRC report.”

Each day the international community delays a response, more people starve. Lokiyoto, a mother from northern Kenya, recently fled her home with three of her children after losing two to malnutrition. She told the IRC, “The drought claimed my children and my livestock. My family has nothing left to depend on.” Lokiyoto was able to get the rest of her children help at IRC’s nutrition clinic in Kakuma Refugee Camp. “They feel better and that is why they are still alive. In my heart, I feel very happy that my children can access treatment.”

The IRC launched an emergency response to the crisis in Ukraine in February 2022 and has been working directly and with local partners to reach those most in need. We are in Ukraine, Poland and Moldova, delivering vital services such as cash assistance, mental health support, and safe healing and learning spaces for children. In East Africa, the IRC is implementing a drought response plan, supporting over 1 million people with essential nutrition, health, water and sanitation and cash assistance services.