U.S. should give more food aid to other countries, expert says
When the United States contributed
more than $146 million to avert famine in Afghanistan, millions
of Afghans survived.
If the United States could give that same level of support to
other countries on the brink of malnutrition and poverty, they too
might be on the road to recovery, said Catherine A. Bertini, a former
United Nations (U.N.) World Food Program (WFP) executive director.
Bertini, who is teaching a semester at the Gerald R. Ford School
of Public Policy, said in a speech that this country, which has
ample resources, should not wait until another international crisis
to offer more aid to other countries. Recently, President George
Bush announced a 50 percent increase in overall aid, from $10 billion
to $15 billion annually. Bertini considered this a significant step
toward increased support, and recommended additional annual increases,
especially in food aid.
Bertini gave the inaugural lecture Oct. 16 for
the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence program at Schorling
Auditorium, U-M School of Education. The Ford School coordinated the event.
As the largest humanitarian agency in the
world, the WFPa voluntarily funded part of the
U.N. systemprovides food aid to millions of hungry people. The agency assisted 77 million people in
countries last year. Bertini led the Rome-based
organization for 10 years until 2002, and described
it as a "demanding, but rewarding job."
She led the effort to provide aid during
emergencies in Afghanistan, Kosovo, North Korea,
the Horn of Africawhich is made up of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Djiboutiand
many other countries.
In Afghanistan, where residents lived
through drought and poverty, the country is rebuilding
its civil forces of police officers, teachers and
others, thanks to assistance from the United States
and other countries, she said.
"The people in Afghanistan are better off
today and will be even better a year from now,"
But the United States contributes less per
capita, $34 per person, than all 22 of the world's
wealthiest countries, she noted. The country gave a
record $1.2 billion last year, a 52 percent increase
compared with 2000. This figure includes primarily
non-perishable food contributions, such as corn,
wheat, flour, rice, vegetable oils and beans. However,
with 777 million hungry people in the world, and
with successful U.S. agricultural production, the
country could do much more to aid the world's poor,
"Do we have an obligation to help these people?
I say absolutely," Bertini said. "I believe the
American people accepted the responsibility that no
one goes hungry."
The world could become more stable if people in poor countries
those affected by drought, flooding or unforeseen consequences,
such as the end of the Cold Warreceived more aid and resources from
the United States and other countries, she said. "If people
understand the state of desperate poverty, they would ensure that
the government help" other countries, she said.