USAID pledges nearly $1.3 billion to support food security in the Horn of Africa – Food Tank
During an address on the global food crisis hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that they were committing to nearly $1.3 billion for food security programs in the Horn of Africa. To avert an impending “global food disaster”, USAID Administrator Samantha Power is calling for a response based on humanitarian assistance, investment in agricultural development and international diplomacy.
In the past two years, pandemic-related supply shortages, weather-induced droughts and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have pushed an additional 150 million people into a state of hunger, according to the United Nations. United (UN). In the midst of this crisis, USAID and its partners, including the UNICEF (UNICEF), Holsman International, the Eleanor Crook Foundation and CSIS’s Global Food Security Program (GFSP) are mobilizing to prevent starvation and death. The situation is particularly serious in the Horn of Africa, which includes Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.
“There is so much at stake,” warns Power. “There is a long history of evidence linking rising food prices to global instability. We have already seen protests against high food prices in at least 17 countries on almost every continent. Rising food, fuel and fertilizer prices are making the situation worse.
According to 2022 edition of The state of food security and nutrition in the world (SOFI), around 45 million children under the age of five suffer from wasting, a life-threatening form of malnutrition, worldwide. USAID commits $200 million to UNICEF for the scale-up and distribution of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF).
“In life, there are no quick fixes, but when it comes to preventing children from dying of wasting, RUTF comes as close as it gets,” says William Moore, CEO of the Eleanor Crook Foundation.
“No child should die of malnutrition when we have the tools to stop it. It’s that simple. But achieving this goal will require others to step up,” Power says.
If left untreated, one in four children may suffer permanent impairment due to malnutrition. Coupled with massive immunization gaps, Hon. Henrietta Fore of Holsman International warns of creating a “global child survival crisis”. USAID also sends mobile health teams to provide clean water, sanitation facilities and vaccines.
$90 million will go to the Horn of Africa to support food aid. Investments in agricultural productivity will focus on expanding access to drought-resistant seeds, optimizing fertilizer application through precision agriculture, and preventing post-harvest food loss. Power notes that reinvesting in agricultural development aid is crucial to help countries produce their own resilient food supply.
Although the increased frequency and duration of droughts are affecting many countries, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are among the hardest hit. These countries generally count on two rainy seasons per year, but the region experiences extreme droughts. Power states that in the Horn alone at least 7 million head of cattle have died because there is not enough water and grass to feed them.
The climate catastrophe is exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sent shockwaves through the world’s fertilizer supply. Since November 2021, export restrictions from Russia have led to a tripling of fertilizer prices. USAID is currently partnering with companies like Yara to distribute free fertilizer. USAID is also keen to develop partnerships with companies that can help prevent food waste, such as ColdHuba company that uses solar panels to power cold storage, and Vestergaard, to prevent spoilage with airtight storage containers.
President Biden too recently announced expanding the Feed the Future initiative to eight more countries. “In the 12 countries where Feed the Future is active, we see stronger food systems, we see better nutrition, we see more resilience to shocks. And, because agricultural development is the most effective way to raise the incomes of the poorest, some 23 million people have been lifted out of poverty,” says Power.
Along with investments, Power stresses that diplomacy is key to easing the global food crisis. She urges other countries to step in to help the world’s most vulnerable. USAID also recently partnered with GoFundMe to allow anyone with resources to donate.
“Now we need others to do more before a famine hits, before millions more children find themselves on the razor’s edge… If we don’t unite, we all know what will come next” , says Power.
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Photo courtesy of CIAT, Wikimedia Commons