Food aid reforms came under the spotlight last month when the Obama Administration announced its Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
The changes are important to humanitarian response. Oxfam America estimates that reforms to food aid procurement laws could speed up crisis response by 14 weeks and reach an additional 17.1 million people. For a crisis like the 2010 drought in the Horn of Africa, that improved response time could have saved thousands of lives.
“The current approach to food aid can become, at times, an impediment to its very own mission,” said USAID Administrator Raj Shah.
Humanitarian groups were mostly supportive in response and contractors were unhappy that changes would affect their business. What looked like positive momentum for reform is starting to slow down as both houses of Congress take a look at the Farm Bill and food aid reform both in and out of the United States.
“The agriculture industry in the Midwest sees this as a threat to exports, which is ridiculous,” said former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios to Businessweek, a supporter of food aid reform during his tenure with the Bush Administration. Continue reading →
I discussed the issue of Bangladesh and the Rohingya refugees of Myanmar a bit yesterday. This short report from Al Jazeera provides further information about the ethnic conflict that has lead to the displacement of the Rohingya and how the refugees are living in tents and rely upon food aid.
Congress is looking at reforming its agricultural subsidies programs known generally as the Farm Bill — a massive, kitchen-sink piece of legislation that covers all sorts of things like food stamps, soil conservation and about $5 billion in direct payments to American farmers.
Given our nation’s cost crunch, many are predicting some big cuts. Humanitarian groups like Oxfam and the ONE Campaign are trying to raise public awareness to save the US government’s life-saving, overseas food aid program from the budget ax.
ONE’s food aid advocacy initiative is called Thrive. They also have this page explaining their position on these issues. Oxfam calls its food aid initiative Grow and here’s their argument for sustaining overseas food aid. Both organizations are largely advocating for the same thing — continuing to provide the world’s hungry with immediate food aid and also working toward lasting solutions to end these chronic cycles of hunger and starvation.
Oxfam, always creative and often edgy in their approach, today released this weird, creepy but somehow compelling video calling on Congress to stop playing with food aid (… the soundtrack reminds me of The Shining):