July 22, 2022, Nairobi, Kenya — The International Rescue Committee (IRC) welcomes the lifting of the Black Sea blockade on Ukraine’s seaports where 20 million tonnes of wheat are currently being held. These blockades have greatly contributed to the growing global hunger crisis, especially in East Africa, with countries relying on Russia and Ukraine for over 90% of their wheat imports.

Shashwat Saraf, IRC’s East Africa Emergency Director said, 

“The lifting of these blockades will go some way in easing the extreme hunger that over 18 million people in East Africa are facing, with 3 million already facing catastrophic hunger conditions. The global impacts of the war in Ukraine have meant food and fuel prices have spiraled out of control – especially in countries already suffering from conflict and extreme drought. The next and significant step must be fully funding the humanitarian response in the region, to stave off the worst impacts of the drought and prevent a catastrophic, unprecedented famine from fully engulfing the region by the end of the summer.”

Meanwhile, as the humanitarian situation inside Ukraine worsens and needs rise, people living in rural areas are becoming increasingly unable to sustain a living, especially as wheat and grain continue to be blocked from exports. This would be a small step towards allowing Ukrainian farmers, who are at risk of losing everything, to go back to their livelihoods, although there is still much more to be done, as fields and transport routes continue to be littered with landmines.

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. 


The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.