Is the U.S. doing enough to alleviate the world food crisis?
President Bush has asked for almost $1 billion in new funds. But critics say the aid may come too late.
The Bush administration is pushing for an increase in US food aid and more flexibility in aid delivery at a time when natural disasters and soaring prices are threatening to spread hunger among some of the poorest in the world.Skip to next paragraph
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Critics point out that the new money wouldn't start flowing until 2009 – and that aid-policy changes could well be halted by US agricultural politics.
But many private aid groups still welcome the proposed moves as a sign of US engagement with a complex international problem – food shortages – that is unlikely to abate anytime soon.
"We really welcomed the president's announcement," says Robert Zachritz, US director of advocacy and government relations for World Vision, of President Bush's proposal of $770 million in new aid. "This administration deserves credit for responding to the current global food crisis in a significant way."
Burma (Myanmar) is the latest hard-hit nation where world aid groups are scrambling to get food to those who need it.
The US, for its part, has provided $250,000 in aid from an existing emergency fund to help international groups present on the ground, such as the UN's World Food Program, provide rice and other necessities.
President Bush on May 6 called on Burma's military junta to allow US disaster assessment personnel into the country in the wake of the cyclone that devastated the country May 3.
"The United States has made an initial aid contribution but we want to do a lot more," said Bush at the White House. "We're prepared to move US Navy assets to help find those who have lost their lives, to help find the missing, to help stabilize the situation."
Further US aid is not necessarily contingent on access for US personnel. The US could continue funneling its help through international groups.
Soaring prices for rice and other commodities have already spread hardship throughout many less-developed nations – particularly in Africa. At least five people were killed in food riots in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on May 5. Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Egypt recently have suffered similar unrest.