Thousands of metric tons of rice donated by China to Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo were shipped from Shanghai on Friday afternoon.

The move came as part of China’s food assistance this year to the United Nations World Food Programme to help address food security challenges in those countries, as well as in the Republic of Congo and Lesotho.

The five countries are facing a range of issues that can impact food security, including armed conflict, climate-related disasters and sluggish economies, according to WFP.

China’s donation will mainly support displaced people and refugees, many of whom are women and children.

“China’s support enables us to expand our work and to reach more people in urgent need of food,” Qu Sixi, representative of the WFP China Office, said during the food departure ceremony the office organized at a port in Shanghai.

“We hope to further strengthen our partnership with China and make joint efforts toward achieving zero hunger,” Qu said.

China and the WFP signed an agreement at the end of last year to help the five African countries address their food security challenges. China’s contributions have enabled the WFP to purchase more than 8,700 tons of rice in China and other food globally that will benefit approximately 300,000 vulnerable people in the five African countries.

Said Jama Mire, charge d’affaires of the Somalia embassy in China, also expressed his gratitude.

“We are very grateful for China’s support for this food donation to Somalia and other African brothers,” he said. “Also, I would like to thank the World Food Programme for its great support of the Somali people.”

He said that approximately 3.5 million people need emergency food assistance in Somalia.

A report presented on April 2 by the European Union, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the WFP said that around 113 million people in 53 countries experienced acute hunger in 2018.

“In recent years, food security in some African countries has been deteriorating because of natural disasters, Ebola or other epidemics and armed conflicts,” said Tian Lin, director general of China International Development Cooperation Agency’s department of international cooperation. “People in many African countries are suffering from famine and malnutrition.”

Established last year, the CIDCA is China’s new governmental agency that oversees foreign aid.

When Africa’s demand for grain is strong, aid from China is “always timely”, which is in line with principles of sincerity, pragmatism, good faith and pursuing shared interests, Tian said.

President Xi Jinping announced at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation last year that China would support Africa to achieve general food security by 2030.

China will work with Africa to formulate and implement an action plan to promote China-Africa cooperation in agricultural modernization and implement another 50 agricultural assistance programs, Xi said. The country has also pledged to provide 1 billion yuan ($149 million) of emergency humanitarian food assistance, send 500 senior agriculture experts to Africa and train entrepreneurs in agribusinesses, he said.

Wang Yu, deputy director-general of the department of outbound investment and economic cooperation at the Ministry of Commerce, said that the ministry-which is in charge of overseeing the execution of China’s foreign aid projects-has cooperated a lot with the WFP in the area of humanitarian assistance.

“So I think today’s departure of Chinese food from Shanghai is a very good example of China’s efforts to promote the shared future of mankind,” she said.