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UN wheat ship departs Ukraine for East Africa

A ship chartered by the United Nations to transport Ukrainian wheat to countries at risk of famine set sail for East Africa on Sunday.

The Brave Commander freighter departed from the Ukrainian port of Yuzhne, east of Odesa, carrying 23,000 metric tons of grain, the Associated Press reported Sunday afternoon, citing regional governor Maksym Marchenko.

The vessel — the first specially chartered by the U.N.’s World Food Program to unblock food shipments stuck after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — will head toward Djibouti, from where the grain will be transported to Ethiopia. The restarting of food aid from Ukraine could mark a major turning point in the fight against worsening global hunger.

Last month, Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement with the U.N. and Turkey to restart grain deliveries, whose disruption has deepened global food insecurity. Millions of people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, in particular, are facing dramatic food shortages, the U.N. has warned.

About a dozen ships have left Ukraine since the U.N.-backed deal was signed, but they have primarily transported corn for animal feed or biofuel, rather than wheat for human consumption.

The first grain ship to depart Ukraine under the deal was rejected by its Lebanese buyer. Reuters, citing anonymous shipping sources, said the vessel was approaching Syria on Sunday. Ukraine has previously accused the Syrian regime of importing stolen grain.

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