WASHINGTON: The United States, the world’s largest donor of food aid, needs to budget more than a proposed $1.2 billion (Rs5,300 crore) a year to fight hunger effectively around the world, an anti-hunger coalition has recommended.
“International food aid has, without a doubt, both reduced the chronic food gap in sub-Saharan Africa and mitigated the impact of crises,” the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, a Washington advocacy group, said in a new report.
But more funds are needed to intervene in acute food emergencies, as well as to allay protracted hunger and nutrition problems in a stable, effective way, said the report’s author, Emmy Simmons, a former official at the US Agency for International Development.
The Partnership includes advisers from charity organizations that deliver food aid as well as from the US government, academia, commodity companies and the World Bank.
The future of US food aid is a contentious issue in Washington as Congress prepares to overhaul legislation that will set farm and food-aid policy for the next five years. In its proposed budget for fiscal 2008, the Bush administration requested $1.2 billion in emergency “Food for Peace” aid, about $80 million more than in 2006.
Often, the government seeks supplemental funding for food aid, separate from the regular budget, bringing the annual total to just under $2 billion from fiscal 2001 to 2005, according to the Partnership’s report.
The group applauded the US, which supplies more than half of all world food aid, for its historic leadership, with food aid loans or grants totalling more than $73 billion since 1946.
But the Partnership is one of a score of voices clamouring for more money to grapple with crises in poor or violence-swept places, such as the Darfur region of Sudan, as well as to provide more predictable revenue to private charities that administer food aid and other development support.
The administration is peddling a plan to allow up to 25% of emergency “Food for Peace” aid to be spent in the country or region where a food crisis occurs, instead of requiring that US companies ship American crops to famine areas.
Loosening procurement rules would enable officials to bring aid more quickly to people in need, the government argues. Currently, aid can take up to five months to arrive.
The Partnership, some of whose members distribute US food aid or sell US commodities in foreign markets, was cautious about that proposal. It suggested a pilot programme to vet proposed changes and track their impact on food prices and nutrition in vulnerable nations.
Avram “Buzz” Guroff, a senior official at ACDI/VOCA, which administers US food aid, said buying commodities close to crisis areas can present logistics hurdles and create negative ripples for local markets.
“Anything we do with respect to food aid needs to be carefully though out,” or it could have an adverse impact on the world’s 80-crore unfed people, he said.
The Partnership also called for more foreign aid to eradicate the entrenched conditions that can cause food shortages, using aid to boost farm output and support health, education and job creation in vulnerable countries.