US Congress blocked opportunity to make food aid more effective

October 20, 2005

US Congress has wasted an opportunity to tackle the rising numbers of chronically hungry people in the world, states an editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet.

On World Food Day, Oct 16, the World Food Programme (WFP) delivered some disquieting news: the number of chronically hungry people is rising again after decades of decline. Almost 6•5 million people have died so far this year from hunger and related diseases, which claim more lives than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

The USA funds just under 60% of all food aid. The Bush Administration wants to purchase 25% of its food aid abroad, rather than buying it in the USA and shipping it to where it is needed, as the current law requires. This policy would make food aid much more effective by cutting transportation costs, which currently swallow 40% of aid money, states the editorial. However, Senate leaders have voted against the Bush proposal, in a move widely viewed as an attempt to protect the interests of US farmers and cargo-ship firms who currently profit from government-donated aid.

The Lancet comments: "Congress has squandered valuable presidential will to address one of the world's most persistent humanitarian issues...Last week, the WFP called for a redoubling of efforts to fight hunger from all nations of the world. The stance adopted by US congressmen underlines that what is needed is not simply more food or aid, but a concerted international effort to eliminate domestic political constraints on aid sourcing and delivery."
Contact: The Lancet press office 0207 424 4949/4249


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