Ukraine, food crisis, humanitarian aid. Where are we heading ?

A woman (3rd R), evacuating with belongings, protects her ears after an explosion on a bridge over the Oskil River as black smoke rises in the frontline city of Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, on September 24, 2022 (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Where is the war in Ukraine going? This editorial seeks to analyse the breakdown in the situation since Vladimir Putin’s declaration on 21 September, with its consequences. It seeks to anticipate what might happen in order to plan the appropriate humanitarian aid.

Défis Humanitaire is an independent website which publishes articles under the responsibility of their author in order to provide information, analysis and recommendations useful for humanitarian action.

The Ukrainian counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region and the recapture of many towns has given Vladimir Putin a shock and he has ordered the mobilisation of 300,000 men and the annexation of the Oblasts (regions) of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporidjia, celebrated on 30 September in Red Square in Moscow. Once again, the Russian president threatened to use all means at his disposal, warning “This is not a bluff”.

The response was immediate on the Ukrainian side, with President Zelinsky signing a document calling for rapid integration into NATO, while declaring that the goal was the recapture of all occupied Ukrainian territories, including Crimea.

Ukrainian soldiers ride on an armored vehicle outside Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 2, 2022.  (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) (CC BY 2.0)

In the West, the condemnation of the annexation is unanimous, people start dreaming of a Ukrainian victory and do not seem to believe in the threat of using weapons of mass destruction. The American president, Joe Biden, declares “don’t do it”, announces the sending of new weapons in numbers, reaffirms unconditional support while remaining circumspect about the American response. The French and German presidents are working together to form a common front in a European Union that is both united and divided on the final objective, between a total war and the containment of a weakened Russia with a political solution.

Russia vetoed on Friday 30 September a UN Security Council resolution condemning the annexation of Ukrainian territory. The draft was approved by 10 of the 15 members of the Council, with Russia voting against. Four members abstained, Brazil, China, India and Gabon.

The evidence is that we have taken a major step in military escalation without knowing how far it can take us. The sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea is a foretaste of what may come next. But more serious is the real risk of using tactical nuclear weapons in accordance with Russian military doctrine.

“It’s not a bluff”.

If the Ukrainian army pursues the reconquest of separatist territories now considered Russian by the authorities in Moscow, can we be sure that Vladimir Putin will never use such weapons, knowing that his fate is intimately linked to that of this war? And if these weapons are used in Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, how will the West respond? It seems to me that we should take this hypothesis more seriously in case Russia backs down on the battlefield, risking a change of power in Moscow for its president. We should take this hypothesis seriously for the Ukrainian people themselves, especially as we know that the nuclear “alert posture” of the countries holding these weapons is already activated, in France as elsewhere.

Le nuage atomique à Nagasaki en 1945 (CC BY 2.0)

In any case, as far as they are concerned, humanitarians must also raise their alert posture and prepare for a war that will not only last but also intensify. The number of victims and destruction can unfortunately only increase and we must prepare for the worst, to be ready, as much as possible, to help the victims. Let us remember the means used in Syria.

From now on, everything is possible and the head of the Kremlin is calling for a war against the West, which will probably not be without consequences even outside Ukraine, as we are seeing these days in Burkina Faso after Mali.

Many questions arise. Can the Ukrainian army militarily regain control of all its territory? Will Russia use weapons of mass destruction that would give it an advantage? How will the West react in this case? What impact will winter have on the course of the war? How will European public opinion cope with energy restrictions and price increases? Will the Russians carry out destabilising actions elsewhere than in Ukraine? Is Putin seriously ill and could the Russian army collapse?

How far will the global food crisis go?

Among the consequences of this war, there is for many countries and their population, the question of the supply of wheat, cereals, fertilizers coming from Ukraine or Russia (A global run for life ; Avoiding a “hurricane of famine”). Where are we with the agreement that Ukraine and Russia ratified on 22 July in Istanbul under the aegis of Turkey and the United Nations?

The BC Vanessa, a WFP chartered vessel carrying Ukrainian grain to Afghanistan as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. UN Photos / Levent Kulu (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Before the war, Ukraine was exporting around 6 million tonnes of cereals per month according to Agritel, a reference consultancy firm on agricultural sectors. Thanks to the Black Sea corridor, since August, more than 5 million tonnes had been exported by 27 September. Agritel estimates that Ukraine could export 12 million tons by the end of the year, against 18 million tons previously, while specifying that this remains “fragile, tense and volatile”. According to Gautier Le Molgat of Agritel on RFI, the food crisis is far from over, especially since this war has amplified the food tension caused by climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and conflicts.

At a press conference in New York on 13 September, Amir Abdulla (UN Black Sea Coordinator) and Rebeca Grynspan (Director General of UNCTAD) said that they wanted to increase the number of ships in the Black Sea, that the destinations of these ships were similar to those before the war, and that while there had been a drop in international grain prices, this trend was not always reflected at the national level. They also noted that Russian fertiliser exports remained at a low level. It should be noted that four humanitarian ships were chartered by the WFP for 120,000 tonnes of wheat for the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Afghanistan.

For its part, the European Commission announced on 5 September that Ukraine would accede to a Convention on transit and simplification, allowing for easier movement of goods, and the elimination of customs duties and VAT on the import of vital goods for Ukrainians. This exemption would also apply to charitable or philanthropic organisations approved by the competent authorities in the Member States.

In a well-documented note “Analysis of the global food crisis and its links with the war in Ukraine”, the humanitarian NGO “Solidarités international” conducted a survey in the countries where it is active. In the Central African Republic (CAR), it found a 28.6 to 33% increase in prices depending on the type of flour. In Sudan, food prices have almost tripled. In West Africa, there is an estimated shortfall of 1.2 to 1.5 million tonnes of fertiliser from Russia and Ukraine, equivalent to 10 to 20 million tonnes of grain. The association makes the following observation: “On the one hand, the number of people in need of assistance is increasing and on the other, food aid is increasingly expensive to implement (cost of food and oil for transporting food).

Distribution of food supplies in Mozambique @Solidarités International

Finally, the Russian president criticised the Black Sea export mechanism, saying that his own food and fertiliser exports would continue to suffer from sanctions. Whether this is true or not, the Black Sea initiative is fragile.

Helping humanitarian aid.

In Ukraine, the UN’s (OCHA) humanitarian needs assessment rose from $1.1 billion at the beginning of March to $2.25 billion in April and $4.3 billion at the beginning of August. Winter and the need for heating could increase this amount of aid for 17 million Ukrainians, whose numbers are expected to rise as the fighting continues.

For the record, Ukraine already has 7.5 million refugees, 7 million displaced people in the country. According to the UN, 580 humanitarian partners are helping 13.4 million people throughout the country. This is an opportunity to recall a request made by humanitarian organisations during a recent meeting in Paris at the Crisis and Support Centre of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, to ask the Ukrainian and Russian authorities to respect the principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and to facilitate the action of humanitarians, not to hinder it.

Two recent reports on humanitarian action (GHAR and ANALP) highlight the growing gap between humanitarian needs and the means available to meet them. In our previous editorial we already reported that the UN humanitarian appeal this year amounted to $46.3 billion and that only $15 billion had been raised by the end of the first half of the year. According to these reports, half of the UN’s appeals for people in crisis countries receive less than 50% of the resources needed and about a quarter of them receive 75% of the bare necessities to survive, while the number of people at risk is now 306 million worldwide, 90.4 million more than before the COVID-19 pandemic!

Our observation is that humanitarian needs are seriously underfunded and that international aid is in danger of running out! Will we soon have to launch an emergency appeal for international humanitarian aid? Among the ways to respond to this funding crisis, these reports suggest broadening the donor base and better targeting funding to countries in crisis. More concretely, we can envisage an increase in the percentage of GNI (Gross National Income) dedicated to humanitarian aid. In France, for example, although considerable progress has been made by the Crisis and Support Centre of the Quai d’Orsay, humanitarian aid still only represents 1% of France’s Official Development Assistance compared to an average of 10% for OECD countries! What is the problem?

Mali, 2021 @Solidarités International

Humanitarian aid is in danger of being cut off. In Somalia, where some 213,000 people are in “imminent danger of death” according to the UN, due to famine and drought, only 70% of vital needs are covered. In Afghanistan, where 23 million people are facing hunger, only 42% of the $4.4 billion needed by the UN and its partners has been funded. Should half the population be left to starve?

Crucial questions and essential lessons.

These are crucial issues which are both specific and interdependent and which interact with each other. One of the characteristics of Humanitarian Challenges is to highlight these links and to establish the relationship between geopolitics and humanitarianism in the face of major challenges in order to be more effective in helping populations at risk.

Will Russian aggression be contained without resorting to the use of weapons of mass destruction for the populations in Ukraine and the risk of collateral effects?

Shouldn’t the export of wheat, cereals and fertilisers from Ukraine and Russia meet the needs of the countries most threatened by the spectre of hunger? We must also learn the lessons of this situation now by changing food and agricultural practices towards greater self-sufficiency for the poorest and most dependent countries.

Will the international humanitarian eco-system succeed in meeting the challenges it faces?

I sincerely hope that this article will be useful to you and that you will be able to share it with your colleagues and friends to whom it could also be useful. I also thank you for the support of your donation, however small (HelloAsso), which should enable us to publish future editions in the service of the humanitarian cause. In advance, a big THANK YOU.

Alain Boinet.

Président de Défis Humanitaires.

Logistics for humanitarian relief : an original initiative for Ukraine.

Interview with Christophe Peyrichou and Nicolas Petit from Bioport on the Ukraine Response Consortium initiative.

Bioport is a non-profit association whose mandate is to improve the aid delivered by humanitarian actors by providing logistics services and supply chain advice in order to minimise costs and maximise service to beneficiaries. Since 1994, Bioport has been offering a pooling of international logistics resources to its partners. As an NGO support organisation (H2H), Bioport works with some forty humanitarian actors in all their fields of intervention and interfaces with its network of logistics service providers. Bioport is also a company for professional integration through logistics activities.


Défis Humanitaires : Why did you take this “Ukraine Response Consortium” initiative, how is it composed, what are its objectives and how does it work? 

Christophe Peyrichou and Nicolas Petit : The Ukraine crisis has led to a significant mobilisation and demand on supply chains, which pushed logistics-sensitive actors to coordinate in order to offer better services to NGOs working in the field.

This consortium is composed of 3 complementary entities under the acronym BAR (Bioport, HI Atlas Logistique, RLH)

  • HI/Atlas Logistique specialises in the delivery of humanitarian aid, supporting organisations and the humanitarian system, particularly in the management of the last kilometre (difficult-to-access red zones),
  • RLH Coop (Humanitarian Logistics Network Cooperative) through networking, advocacy, and the search for optimisation of humanitarian logistics through shared actions between NGOs,
  • Bioport through its logistical support to solidarity actors, particularly on aspects related to transport.

Our aim is to offer a common pool of knowledge and resources through this mechanism. We are working on an operational capacity to provide better logistical services to those who help. This collaboration is supported administratively by HI (Handicap International – Humanity & Inclusion), which represents the consortium to the CDCS (Crisis and Support Centre at the French Minitry of Europe and Foreign Affairs), the donor of this project. Each of the actors has complementary activities in their respective specialities.

In addition to greater operational efficiency, do you also aim to reduce costs and how can this be demonstrated?

Of course, at the beginning of the crisis, the first challenge was to identify service providers who could deliver in Ukraine. With the general mobilisation on the ground and the security situation, only trucks with Ukrainian drivers could circulate in the country, which limited the options at first. But from April onwards, we were able to include a growing number of providers so that we could continuously survey the market and improve the service while optimising costs.

@Atlas Logistique

Is transport in the countries crossed and at the destination easy? We have seen queues of lorries blocked for up to 27 km at some borders. 

The transport and border crossing did not pose any particular problems for us. The Ukrainian government quickly put in place an accelerated border crossing procedure for humanitarian cargo (customs procedures). Ukraine is a country with an efficient infrastructure and logistics companies. There were indeed some congestion problems at times. However, working with service providers with local experience and contacts, as well as a rigorous documentation system, allowed us to optimise border crossings and minimise waiting times (generally no more than 24 hours).

Was the experience of the humanitarian airlift during the Covid-19 pandemic inspiring and useful?

Yes, this experience has inspired us and it has been very useful. Before the airlift in place, we had discussions and simulations of shared charters with strong interests by the different logistics departments of the NGOs’ headquarters, in order to start a dynamic on logistical mutualisation.

The airlift experience highlighted the need to decompartmentalise the various existing logistical support systems and that donors were ready to support this type of operation if it was promoted. Before the COVID19 period, an organisation capable of carrying out this type of project was missing and this enabled the RLH to change its scope. Since the airlift, this decompartmentalisation has been established and we at Bioport wish to contribute to the logistical pooling. The setting up of this consortium in co-construction is a result of this.

@Atlas Logistique

How do you fund the humanitarian work of the Consortium?

The humanitarian action of this consortium is funded by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and more specifically by the Crisis and Support Centre. The consortium and all activities are covered by this funding from May 2022 until October 2022.

It should be noted that this project is co-financed by:

  • For Atlas Logistique: by ECHO via the EHRC (European Humanitarian Response Capacity) mechanism
  • For Bioport: by funding from the AURA region and the Bullukian Foundation from an emergency fund in response to the crisis.

These fundings therefore complete the system and are managed directly by those concerned.

Do you have any relationship with the ECHO mechanism of the European Commission?

As mentioned in the previous question, HI/Atlas Logistic is a key partner of this new ECHO mechanism of the European Commission and operationalized for the first time in Ukraine. RLH has been a partner of ECHO’s EHRC mechanism since the launch of the European Airlift (EUHAB created at the beginning of the COVID crisis, which is now sustainable in the long term). We, Bioport, should be exchanging with them soon.

At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, there was a multitude of goodwill but sometimes inadequate aid initiatives. What is the situation today?

Indeed, unsolicited donations have been pouring in since the beginning of the crisis and this phenomenon, which is common in such situations, has been accentuated by the proximity and land access to Ukraine from Europe. This has contributed to the clogging of supply chains, with goods not meeting the needs or already available locally.

Bioport is used to supporting small associations in their logistics but also in questioning the relevance of their donations. We have therefore developed tools from the outset to inform the general public about the risks of unsolicited donations and their more effective alternatives for helping populations (Donation Awareness). Many other organisations have had similar educational initiatives. In addition, the Ukrainian administration has always remained functional and has been able to quickly control the influx of donations into its territory.

@Atlas Logistique

Do you have any idea to date how much product you have brought in ? 

At Bioport level, we have organised the shipment of approximately 124 tonnes of goods from international destinations to Ukraine for some fifteen organisations. The trucks are shared with several organisations. We have mainly organised the shipment of products with high added value or complex to transport (pharmaceutical products, vehicles, products under controlled temperatures, etc.) for which there is a need for logistical expertise for the partners.

HI/Atlas Logistics has opened 3 logistics hubs in Ukraine: Vinnytsia, Dnipro and Kharkiv. Since the beginning of the crisis, some thirty partner organisations have benefited from storage and kitting services including temperature-controlled spaces (storage capacity available to humanitarian organisations of more than 6,000m2) and transport services (5,500 tonnes of humanitarian materials transported) to the most difficult to access areas, close to the front lines.

The consortium ensures the continuity of the logistics chain from Europe to the hardest-to-reach areas, including eastern Ukraine, as well as free and optimised logistics services for the main humanitarian actors working in Ukraine.

There are many aid actors in Ukraine today and you have to choose your partners. On what criteria do you do this and with what follow-up? 

We have a fairly strict working framework, firstly we screen the partners and suppliers. Secondly, we take into account the needs of the partners, their complementarities and their specificities in order to maximise the logistical support that is currently offered within the framework of this consortium. To date, we have not had to “choose”, and there has been a logic of solidarity and financial balance on the activities between our three entities, allowing us to cover the needs expressed by our field partners.

Can you ensure that the aid you carry gets to the people who need it most?

We provide logistical support to organisations that operate according to the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. We work together with them and trust them to provide appropriate assistance in the difficult conditions of war.

@Atlas Logistique

How do you see the continuation of this Consortium for Ukraine and could it be implemented later in other countries?

We think it is important that there is continuity in the project in Ukraine. Discussions are underway on this point. As far as replicability is concerned, there is a need for further reflection between the organisations. For Bioport, there is no doubt about the interest of this type of model, which allows field actors to concentrate on the victims while relying on shared logistics at their service.

How would you like to conclude this interview? 

Perhaps with a note of optimism and realism. At the very least, the consortium will have made it possible to take a new step towards more shared logistics for the benefit of partners and the humanitarian community.

This consortium responds to a real need to optimise humanitarian logistics chains, both for ISOs responding to crises and for institutional donors. The complementary nature of the actors in this consortium makes it a relevant intervention tool to be reproduced in other areas of operation.


Nicolas Petit and Christophe Peyrichou 

Pour aller plus loin:

Bioport Logistique 

Presentation of the Ukraine Response Consortium Initiative


Nicolas Petit

Nicolas Petit a occupé différents postes dans les services logistiques siège au sein des ONG et en missions d’expatriation notamment en Afrique du Nord (Tunisie), en Afrique centrale (RCA RDC) et en Afrique de l’Ouest (Bénin, Guinée Conakry et Cote d’ivoire). De retour en France en 2011, il intègre parallèlement Bioforce en qualité de consultant formateur et Bioport au poste de logisticien, où il poursuivra son engagement en tant que chef de projet, responsable du département OSI et aujourd’hui en tant que directeur des opérations et du développement. Il a effectué des études de Logistique à Bioforce en 2008 puis un master2 en management de la Supply Chain au CNAM en 2017. Il est consulté régulièrement sur les questions de logistiques mutualisés, de mise en œuvre de flux complexes et sur les aspects liés aux transports internationaux.

Christophe Peyrichou

Christophe Peyrichou, 37 years old, is the manager of Bioport’s OSI division. He has been managing the team that coordinates and develops the international logistics operations of Bioport’s partners for the past 5 years. He first joined Bioport as a project manager in 2016.

Before Bioport Christophe worked in the private sector in industrial supply chain.