AS I SEE IT, Food aid to Africa displays a commitment to those in need
By NANCY LINDBORG
Special to The Star
Last year when I visited Kansas City for the International Food Aid and
Development Conference, the United States was in the midst of a
full-throttled response to crisis in the Horn of Africa. More than 13
million people in the dry lands of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia
were in urgent need, including more than three million in Somalia alone,
where conflict exacerbated the most severe drought in 60 years. With USAID
teams working around the clock for months, we provided 429,000 metric tons
of life-saving food along with critical health care and medical supplies,
reaching more than 4.6 million people, primarily women and children, when
they needed help most.
None of this would have been possible without the hard work and generosity
of the American public, and especially the farmers, manufacturers and
shippers that I am honored to meet with again this week in Kansas City.
In any given year - not just in times of crisis - American farmers from more
than 26 states provide food for our assistance programs.
Last year's crisis in the Horn made clear just how close to the edge many
families in crisis-prone areas live. For many mothers, one season without
rains means their children don't eat.
Especially in areas buffeted by ever faster cycles of drought, families
cannot recover fast enough to withstand the next shock. Their savings are
depleted; their herds are weak. We may not be able to prevent drought, but
we are making progress in building family and community resilience so that
recurring shocks are less devastating.
By vaccinating livestock, improving local crop yields through better seeds
and improved irrigation, and strengthening nutrition, we can help
communities prevail through even the most severe droughts. During this
drought, in Kenya, USAID helped farmers like 65-year-old Losekon Ayanga
harvest a bumper crop of sorghum through improved irrigation. We helped
groups like the 57 women pastoralists in northeast Kenya make and market
yogurt, reducing spoilage of their milk production and providing critically
needed income for their families when the rain-fed crops failed.
In April, USAID played a pivotal role in forming a new Alliance for Action
with African governments and our international partners to cement a shared
commitment to building resilience in areas plagued by constant crisis. We
agreed to review our progress in six months, turning commitment into action.
The United States is contributing to the alliance's goals through Feed the
Future, a landmark initiative to increase food security by battling the root
causes of poverty and undernutrition through increased investments in
agriculture-led economic growth.
As we gather this year in Kansas City, a new drought is pushing millions
into crisis on the other side of Africa, in the dry lands that stretch from
Senegal to Chad. Since early this year, we have been working with our
international partners to respond to early warnings with early action. We
have already shipped 83,800 metric tons of food to the region - enough to
feed 2.5 million people - and we are working to bring the same focus on
saving lives and building resilience to the Sahel as we have to the Horn.
As Americans, we have an enduring commitment to responding to crises and
helping those in need. For the last 50 years, millions of people around the
world have been nourished by bags of food from the American people during
their toughest times. As crises continue, we will continue to respond. But
we will also focus on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of how we
help. Ultimately, food security is a key part of global security, and by
helping farmers like Losekon Avanga be more resilient, his family, his
village, and ultimately all of us will be more secure.
Nancy Lindborg, of Bethesda, Md., is the USAID assistant administrator for
Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. She was one of the guest
speakers at this week's International Food Aid and Development Conference in
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Received on Thu May 10 2012 - 08:33:49 EDT