Grain from Ukraine Initiative: Goodwill Ambassador, Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, welcomes first shipment in Kenya.
The United States-based good governance crusader, it should be said, was appointed last January by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as one of the first leading African Ambassadors of the programme and member of the International Coordination Group for Prevention of Hunger, ICGPH, created to pilot affairs of the initiative.
The shipment, supported by the UN World Food Programme, WFP, with financial assistance from the governments of the United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, was received in Mombasa, Monday March 20.
The huge consignment was received by the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, H.E Rigathi Gachagua, alongside Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, and Ukraine Ambassador to Kenya, H.E Pravednyk Andrii.
Also present were a battery national and international dignitaries, notably representatives and heads of diplomatic services from the USA, Ukraine, UK, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Nairobi, Czech Republic, Netherlands as well as the UN Resident Coordinator and WFP Representative and Country Director, among others.
According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, over 5.4 million people in Kenya will likely experience acute food insecurity between March and June this year with about 970,200 children likely to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2023.
The Grain from Ukraine Initiative, it should be said, has so far delivered more than 140,000 tons of wheat to needy African countries since November 2022.
Speaking while receiving the shipment, Rigathi Gachagua, thanked all those involved and paid particular tribute to Ukraine.
"Allow me to acknowledge, in a very special way, Ambassador Pravednyk Andrii and the great people of Ukraine, a country of gallant, resilient and industrious, farmers who have stood against all odds of war to feed the world, Kenya included," he said.
The deputy Kenyan president described the shipment as a "shot in the arm" to help the 5.4 million Kenyans facing starvation.
Enter Ukraine Goodwill Ambassador
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Fomunyoh, said “as a son of the African continent, I am deeply honoured to be with you today on behalf of the Goodwill Ambassadors to thank the people of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his entire government for their fortitude and for their generosity”.
“It is always heartwarming when a brother, a sister, a friend raises a finger to lend a hand. It is extraordinarily moving, uplifting when that finger and that hand comes from a people who are themselves going through extremely challenging moments as our brothers and sisters in Ukraine dealing with a war that has been imposed on them,” the globally acclaimed democracy and good governance expert said.
He hailed the wisdom and foresight of the Ukraine President, who, in November 2022, months after the signing of the Black Sea Agreement, decided to nominate and create the International Coordination Group for Prevention of Hunger, which is a pool of Goodwill Ambassadors in which are four African leaders, led by the former President of Malawi, Dr Joyce Banda.
Dr Fomunyoh said Dr Banda would have loved to be present for the reception of the consignment but for Cyclone Freddy that hit Mozambique, Malawi, Madagascar, and caused devastation across the neighbouring country of Malawi.
“She is today, as we speak, in Zomba, which is in the Southern part of her country, coordinating relief efforts there as well,” he detailed, while appealing on his audience to while celebrating the relief for Kenya, also keep their thoughts and prayers with the people of Malawi.
“I will also like to ask, more importantly, that we keep our thoughts and prayers with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. That each and every one of us in our prayers or in our official duties, for those who represent nation states, will work as best as they can to bring this war to an end so that the people of Ukraine can regain a sense of normalcy in their lives,” he appealed.
Dr Fomunyoh hailed the positive role being played by President Zelenskyy as guarantor of food security, which is now a priority as declared by the United Nations for the world and especially for Africa.
He also hailed UN Resident Coordinator, Dr Stephen Jackson, and the entire UN system, as well as World Food Programme Resident Coordinator and Country Director, Laura Landis, for having accepted to be the linchpin of the operation.
He noted that it is on their “efficiency and effectiveness that we can guarantee that this goodwill gesture, this act of global solidarity will actually be delivered to the populations that are the most vulnerable”.
“Several countries across Africa, including Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia, are facing the worst food crisis seen in 40 years. Global factors, such as ongoing climate change in Africa, the escalating conflict in Ukraine, inflation around the world and a surge in global food prices, have caused devastating hunger ripples worldwide,” Dr Fomunyoh, who doubles as Senior Associate and Regional Director for Africa at the US-based National Democratic Institute, NDI, added.
Resilience, fighting spirit of Ukrainians
On his part, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Kenya, H.E Pravednyk Andrii, used the ceremony to harp on the resilient and fighting spirit of his compatriots.
“A little more than a year ago when Russia launched its brutal and unprovoked military aggression against my country, many politicians and experts predicted that Ukraine will be crushed in few weeks. But we are still standing as a free and independent nation and our resolved to bring the aggressor to justice and liberate all the occupied territories is unbending,” the diplomat stated, categorically.
“Today is a historic day as we gather to mark the arrival in Kenya of the first ship of 3.5 thousand metric tons of Ukrainian wheat procured from Mombasa sister city, Odessa with Grain from the Ukraine humanitarian programme,” he stated, noting that the programme is aimed at feeding five million people in Africa and Asia.
“For now, 30 countries have joined the Grain from the Ukraine initiative, which has already raised around two hundred million US Dollars. We have already sent one hundred and forty thousand tons of Ukrainian grains to countries, which need it most,” he added.
The diplomat thanked the World Food Programme and eight European donor countries for “joining hands and making this great contribution in the drought response efforts of the Kenyan government possible”.
While regretting the heavy damage caused to Ukraine’s agriculture sector due to Russian invasion, the diplomat noted that prior to 2022, Ukraine was one of the main suppliers of grain for the World Food Programme and the fourth largest grain exporter globally.
“Notwithstanding these difficulties, we are determined to remain a guarantor of global food security and feed the people of the world. Even as our own people are bleeding and dying, it is not only a responsibility, but also a sincere feeling from our hearts since 1932 when Ukraine suffered from Holodomor, thereby having hunger installed in our country by the Stalin regime,” he said.
H.E. Pravednyk stressed on the need to keep intact and fast the Black Sea Grain Corridor as an important food lifeline.
“We ask the Kenyan public and all our partners to continue speaking in one voice in support of Ukraine, demanding the removal of obstacles for the functioning of the Black Sea Grain Corridor and restoring peace in Ukraine, based on the principles of the UN Charter and UN General Assembly’s Resolution, adopted on February 28, 2023, and supported by 141 countries, including Kenya,” he added.
Today’s event gives us a ray of hope that we can together solve our problems and make this world a better place. So, let us celebrate this success and continue working hard to bring relief to those who are desperate, to those who suffer and are in need of our help,” he concluded.
According to Andriy Yermak, Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office and Chairman of the International Coordination Group for the Prevention of Hunger, since the launch of the initiative, more than 30 donor countries have joined the programme, including EU countries, Qatar, Türkiye, Japan, Norway, Korea, Canada and the United States.
“This shipment to Kenya cements our ongoing commitment to tackling forced famine across Africa’s most vulnerable nations. While we continue to defend our nation against external aggression, we have not forgotten our humanitarian obligation towards our allies in time of need,” Yermak said.
The Grain from Ukraine initiative was launched in November 2022 by President Zelenskyy at a Global Food Security Summit in Kyiv. The launching was attended by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen; President of France, Emmanuel Macron; German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz; UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, and the Prime Ministers of Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Belgium, as well as the president of Hungary.