By Leah Douglas
(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will together contribute nearly $700 million to international food aid efforts in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the agencies said on Wednesday.
The money will go to emergency food operations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen. $282 million will come from the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT), which is co-managed by the agencies.
USDA will additionally provide $388 million for transportation, shipping, and other costs, the agency said.
“Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine, a fellow major agricultural export country, is driving food and energy costs higher for people around the world,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a statement.
Members of the Senate Hunger Caucus in March called on USDA and USAID to draw upon funds from the BEHT, not done since 2014, as the United Nations’ World Food Programme predicted dire global famine resulting from interruptions to Ukraine and Russian exports.
Together, Russia and Ukraine account for about a quarter of world wheat exports.
The invasion was leading to a “staggering global food crisis,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.
(Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by Toby Chopra)