Hope against hunger in Congressional action

By Oxfam

WASHINGTON, DC — International relief and development organization Oxfam America praised the introduction of the Global Food Security Act by Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Robert Casey (D-PA) today, in response to increasing hunger around the world.

"The number of people on this planet who suffer from chronic hunger has climbed to almost one billion—one in every six—and it's likely to get worse because of the global economic crisis and climate change," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "Congress should urgently pass this bill to not only address the ongoing humanitarian crisis, but also lay out long term responses that will reduce the vulnerability of poor people to the kinds of food price shocks we've seen in the last year."

The US approach to food security abroad has been uncoordinated across US agencies. The Global Food Security Act is the first attempt to provide a more comprehensive strategy for the US to address food insecurity abroad, make emergency responses more effective and build long-term food security by investing in agriculture. The legislation improves our emergency response to food crises and provides funding to assist poor countries promote food security and stimulate their rural economies.

"The spotlight may currently be on the financial crisis, but the food crisis is still very real and needs an urgent and coordinated response," said Offenheiser. "Once the world recovers from the global recession, commodity prices will skyrocket again, increasing the ranks of those who go hungry on a daily basis. This legislation begins the process of forging an effective strategy for fighting hunger and poverty."

Food prices on international markets rose dramatically last year and have eased in recent few months, but prices in most developing countries have remained high or continue to increase. For example, five million people are acutely affected by rising food prices in Afghanistan. The cost of cereal in Ethiopia remains drastically higher than at this time last year, and in Zimbabwe, five million people, almost half the country's population, are dependent on food aid.

The Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act would create a new food security emergency fund for rapid response during crises. The bill also delivers on new investments and partnerships in research and development in agriculture. Perhaps most important, the bill begins to address the lack of clear mission, strategy and coordination among US agencies that has hampered our efforts of fighting poverty and hunger.

"With billions injected into the financial sector over the past few months, the donor community is drawing on empty pockets, but we must see investing in agriculture as part of the long-term solution to food, financial and climate crises," said Offenheiser. "Congress should urgently pass this bill to help us prepare to deal with another major spike in food prices, as well investing in long-term efforts to fight poverty."

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