First wheat ship bound for Africa leaves Ukraine

STORY: In the dawn light of Tuesday morning (August 16), the bulk carrier Brave Commander moved through the waters of the Black Sea.

This is the first humanitarian cargo ship to leave Ukraine for an African country since Russia's invasion in February.

It's carrying thousands of tons of wheat.

Ukraine's grain exports have slumped since the start of the war - which Moscow calls a "special military operation".

Global food prices have been driven up and fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East have been mounting.

Three Black Sea ports were unblocked last month under a deal between Russia and Ukraine, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.

The U.N.- chartered Brave Commander is heading for Djibouti, with the wheat supplies then destined for Ethiopia.

The bulk carrier was loaded at the weekend in Ukraine's Pivdennyi.

Speaking at the port, the U.N.'s Resident Coordinator for Ukraine Denise Brown said they hoped there would be many more shipments to countries in need.

"There are at least five who are already in famine-like conditions and another 20 that are on what we call ‘the watch list for famine’. So these shipments are going to be hugely important to those populations."

African governments have largely avoided taking sides in the European conflict, and have refused to join Western condemnation and sanctions.

However the continent is particularly vulnerable to the fallout.

Earlier in August the United States' ambassador to the U.N. said the conflict will cause 40 million people to become food insecure, and that sub-Saharan Africa will be hardest hit.