USAID’s Power announces aid to Africa ahead of testimony, travel
U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power on Monday announced that the United States will provide nearly $1.3 billion in additional aid to the Horn of Africa countries — Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia — as a result of four years of drought, COVID-19 and higher world commodity prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
William Moore, CEO of the Eleanor Crook Foundation holds up a packet of nutritional paste than can save the lives of malnourished children.
Power also announced USAID would provide $200 million to UNICEF to maximize procurement of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food or RUTF to feed 2.4 million severely malnourished children.
The American Soybean Association noted in a news release Monday that RUTF is an energy-dense medical food paste made of soy, peanuts, powdered milk, vegetable oil, sugar and multivitamins, and that ASA’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health program works with companies like the Rhode Island-based Edesia to provide soy protein in products designed to combat malnutrition, like RUTF.
Power announced the commitments in a wide-ranging speech at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in advance of her testimony Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Committee at a hearing on the global food crisis and the U.S. response.
Power said she will also travel to the Horn of Africa later this week and hopes that the trip will generate media coverage to increase public awareness of the current level of the food crisis.
Amid reports that Russia’s negotiations with Turkey and other countries to reopen Black Sea ports may be reaching a conclusion, Power said that she and the Ukrainian agriculture minister “will have more to say” on Tuesday about bringing Ukrainian grains and oils to market.
In her speech, Power put much of the blame for the depth of the current food crisis on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and also to prevent shipments of food based in Ukraine and to restrict exports of Russian fertilizers.
“Now, Putin will tell you that Western sanctions are to blame, even though we purposefully created carve outs for Russian fertilizer and food,” Power said.
“But the truth never deters Putin from espousing its opposite.”
“As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once put it in his Nobel Prize speech: ‘Anyone who has proclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose falsehood as his principle.’
“Today, faced with what may be the most alarming global food crisis of our lifetimes, the United States and our allies choose a different principle.”
To avert a catastrophe, Power said, “we must battle together on three fronts, providing immediate humanitarian aid to the severely hungry and malnourished, providing sustained investment in global agriculture that will help farmers boost their harvests, and undertaking concerted diplomacy so that we mobilize more resources from donors, avoid export restrictions that can exacerbate the crisis, and lessen the burden on poor countries.”
But as necessary as food assistance is at the moment, Power said, the world has become too dependent on food aid at the expense of agricultural development.
“For decades, the world turned to humanitarian aid as its main weapon in the fight against hunger, as such aid went from constituting a relatively marginal share of total development assistance — less than 1% of total foreign aid back in 1970 — to more than 20% today,” she said.
Meanwhile, she continued, “agricultural development assistance dropped from an average $20 billion in the 1980s each year to less than $5 billion in 2006.”
“That is a major drop,” she said. “And the problem with this trend is that while humanitarian aid saves lives, it doesn’t generally leave countries, communities, or farmers better able to weather the next failed harvest.”
AG DEVELOPMENT A PRIORITY
The Biden administration, she said, is expanding the Feed the Future program that President Obama’s administration started, from 12 countries to 20 countries that have agreed to prioritize agricultural development.
More than 100 countries have agreed to join a U.S.-led Roadmap for Global Food Security, but “One country in particular stands out right now for its absence: the People’s Republic of China,” she said.
“Signing on to the roadmap, removing export restrictions in its fertilizer exports, and releasing some of its grain reserves either to the global market or to humanitarian entities like the World Food Program would significantly relieve pressure on food and fertilizer prices and powerfully demonstrate the country’s desire to be a global leader and a friend to the world’s least-developed economies.”
Power praised Congress for providing additional funds to address the food crisis, but said, “We need other countries to look beyond their approved budgets to address the current gaps in assistance, especially those countries who might have more space to do so given the returns they are receiving from high commodity prices.”
In a question and answer session after her speech, Power said she fears the public has become too used to stories about pain to pay proper attention to the food crisis.
“Because we are sadly getting used to reading about heat waves, and wildfires, and droughts … I think the kind of perfect storm moment that we are in when it comes to this food crisis has not struck everyone at the same time, or has not yet.”
Power urged attendees including students who travel to troubled areas to come back with stories of what they’ve seen because people need to know that the scarce resources they are “prepared to part with for the sake of vulnerable people” are “going to be put to good use.”
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