There is a hunger crisis afflicting nearly one billion people worldwide. This crisis is hardest on children who, trapped in war or disaster zones or living in poverty, depend on access to proper foods from the international community for their survival and growth.
The US House of Representatives recently passed a budget plan which would cut over $800 million for international food aid. If the cuts stand, not only will millions of lives be threatened but it will cause damage to our foreign policy, as well.
Ending hunger is absolutely essential to achieving true global security. Peace and justice cannot exist in a world where a billion people are stalked by hunger. Slashing food aid now is short-sighted and morally indefensible.
At risk are the US Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole international school meals programs.
How do we expect peace and stability to emerge in conflict-torn Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and other countries if the people are hungry and malnourished? If these nations continue to suffer from food insecurity, high infant malnutrition rates and lack of food for its schools, the prospects for reform and progress are bleak.
The recent uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and other countries demonstrate how high food prices and malnutrition cause massive discontent among the population. Food security is integral to any nation’s well-being.
International food aid represents a tiny percentage of the US budget. There is not much to be saved by cutting hunger-fighting programs. Clearly, there are programs far less important that can be cut instead, some examples of which were recently pointed out by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
According to Reuters, Secretary Gates “blasted lawmakers blocking the Pentagon’s five-year effort to cancel a $6 billion interchangeable engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being built by General Electric and Britain’s Rolls-Royce Group.”
Gates said, “We consider it an unnecessary and extravagant expense.”
If Congress were to budget a small portion of that money toward the World Food Programme, it could fund operations in multiple countries where peace and reconstruction are on the line. Food is what can tip the balance.
Fighting hunger and boosting agricultural production are crucial elements of our foreign policy, and ones that are simply not emphasized enough.
Even without budget cuts, food aid programs are not given much funding, relatively speaking. In a given year, the U.S. spends no more than a few billion on food aid. Compare that to the cost of a post-cold war nuclear weapons program which was estimated at 52 billion dollars in 2008 alone.
The House is essentially making deep cuts to an already underfunded branch of our foreign policy. The consequences could be devastating. Food is the foundation of peace. Congress should refer to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after WWII for reference.
Lawmakers need to go back to the drawing board and start over. Cutting international food aid will do very little for fixing the deficit, but will have grave consequences to our national security.
It’s in our best interest and it’s the right thing to do.