Humanitarian aid agencies want the U.S. to appoint a leader to direct the fight against global hunger. When you see hunger emergencies the size of the one facing Syria you see exactly what they mean.
The Global Food Security Act (H.R. 2822), introduced Thursday by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), would appoint a White House Coordinator for Food, Nutrition, and Agricultural Development. It’s a “food ambassador” of sorts. It will be someone who would be in charge of the U.S. response against hunger which is currently spread out among a number of agencies.
Most important though is to bring the issue of hunger to the top of the foreign policy agenda, where it needs to be. Right now food aid programs are something many members of Congress look to cut, showing the disconnect with this issue. That needs to change.
Look at Syria, Afghanistan, Haiti, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and other countries facing massive levels of hunger and malnutrition. The Syria emergency is so large it spreads outside its borders to at least five neighboring countries hosting refugees. All these countries need emergency aid but also longer term solutions so they can grow their own food.
McCollum says, “870 million people around the world suffer from chronic food insecurity. This is wrong, and it makes the United States less secure. This bill fights food insecurity by working with the world’s most vulnerable people to enable them to produce their own food and improve their families’ livelihoods.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) adds, ““The United States has a long and proud tradition of supporting global hunger and nutrition programs. That tradition can and must continue. Hunger is a political condition. We have the means to end it; what we need is the political will to make it happen. I am proud to support this important legislation.”
There are 33 humanitarian aid agencies that support this bill including the World Food Program USA, Catholic Relief Services, Church World Service, U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Save the Children.
Aid agencies are telling us this is the right strategy. So does history. After World War II when winning of the peace was crucial, a famine threatened Europe and Asia. Herbert Hoover was appointed by President Truman as the food ambassador. This was essential for coordinating the U.S. and international response to the largest hunger crisis ever at that time. Had the issue of hunger not been made a priority at that time it would have spelt disaster for the recovery of the war devastated nations. Remember the famous Marshall Plan of 1948? Food was the necessary foundation for this plan to succeed.
Hunger exists all over the world, but what limits the response? It’s when the issue of hunger is not given enough attention. It’s when the cries for help are not heard. People who can help are often far away and if they don’t hear about what is going on they won’t respond. Then you have a Congress or White House that won’t give hunger the attention it needs. It’s all about communication.
That communication is needed at all levels. Take for instance the relief operation in Syria where the World Food Programme had been forced recently to reduce the size of rations for war victims. Why? It was because funding was not timely enough to allow the food to reach its destination. A “food ambassador” would be responsible for preventing disasters like this. That can only happen through communication to all levels of the U.S. government, to other governments and to the public.
Then there is the issue of child malnutrition in the first 1000 days of life. A food called plumpy’nut is often used to save children’s lives from this deadly condition. More children could be treated and saved, at less cost, with earlier detection of malnutrition and the use of plumpy’sup or plumpy’doz.
It’s all about efficiency and good foreign policy. As Rep. Schock (R-Ill.) says, “The Global Food Security Act is a comprehensive approach to tackling the food insecurity epidemic that plagues more than 870 million people worldwide by better coordinating U.S. assistance and making accountability a priority to assess progress and the efficient use of foreign aid funding.”
Hunger has traditionally been an area of bipartisan cooperation. In fact, Democrat George McGovern (S.D.) and Republican Bob Dole (Ks.) cooperated for years on fighting hunger both here at home and abroad. We should expect no less now from the current elected officials.
originally published as “We need a leader in global hunger fight” at The Hill