NAIROBI -The Kenyan government has termed the decision by Russia to exit the Black Sea Grain Initiative is a stab on the back at global food security prices.
Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Singóei, the second ranking Foreign Affairs official, said in a tweet that the Russian move disproportionately impacts countries in the Horn of Africa already impacted by drought.
“The decision by Russia to exit the Black Sea Grain Initiative is a stab on the back (sic) at global food security prices and disproportionately impacts countries in the Horn of Africa already impacted by drought,” Korir said in response to a statement by UN Secretary General Spokesperson.
The Black Sea deal was brokered by the UN and Turkey in July last year to mitigate global food crisis, but Russia complains not enough grain has reached poor countries under the agreement.
According to Reuters, Russia struck Ukrainian ports a day after pulling out of the deal for safe Black Sea grain exports, even Moscow and Kyiv gave different accounts of fighting in northeastern Ukraine on Tuesday.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday said he deeply regretted the decision by the Russian Federation to terminate the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative – including the withdrawal of Russian security guarantees for navigation in the northwestern part of the Black Sea.
“This Initiative has ensured the safe passage of over 32 million metric tons of food commodities from Ukrainian ports. The World Food Programme has shipped more than 725,000 tons to support humanitarian operations – relieving hunger in some of the hardest hit corners of the world, including Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Yemen,” Guterres said in the statement.
Russia on Monday quit the agreement allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine’s grain for the past year following its expiry, warning that it could not guarantee the safety of ships in a move the United Nations said would “strike a blow to people in need everywhere.”
It, however, suggested that if demands to improve exports of its own grain and fertilizer were met, it would consider resurrecting the Black Sea agreement.
However, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that a U.N. pact that aimed to help facilitate Russia’s shipments over the past year was also terminated.
“”The Black Sea Initiative — together with the Memorandum of Understanding on facilitating exports of Russian food products and fertilizers — have been a lifeline for global food security and a beacon of hope in a troubled world.
At a time when the production and availability of food is being disrupted by conflict, climate change, energy prices and more, these agreements have helped to reduce food prices by over 23 per cent since March last year,” he said.
EU High Representative Josep Borrell in a statement said they condemn unequivocally Russia’s decision to terminate the Black Sea Grain Initiative, saying it will only exacerbate the global food crisis.
“With its decision, Russia is further exacerbating the global food security crisis it created by its war of aggression against Ukraine and its blockade of Ukrainian sea ports. Russia must cease illegally blocking Ukrainian sea ports and allow freedom of navigation on the Black Sea,” Borrell said in the statement.
Data from the IPC shows more than 5.4 million people in Kenya and 6.6 million in Somalia will experience acute food insecurity through June 2023. About 11 million people in Ethiopia are severely food insecure due to the drought, according to the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan.
The 2023 Global Report on Food Crises revealed a fourth consecutive year of increased populations facing high acute food insecurity in 2022. The report showed that drivers of acute food insecurity include conflict, economic shocks and weather extremes that are interconnected and mutually reinforcing.
The region has faced instability, with conflicts in Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) says in its report that after five consecutive failed and below-average rains, the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa is expanding and deepening.
The World Food Programme further paints a grimmer picture, saying regardless of how the 2023 rains perform, extremely high humanitarian needs will persist through 2023 while a full recovery from a drought of this magnitude will take years.
A forecast from the Climate Hazard Center warned that the region is likely headed for a sixth poor rainy season this spring, from March to May 2023. In 2022, more than 20 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya needed food assistance, representing an increase in needs of more than 70 per cent compared to levels recorded during regional food security crises in 2016 and 2017.