UN World Food Programme

What Obama's Commitments To Food Security Mean For WFP

Food distribution in Angola

Copyright: WFP/Q. Sakamaki

President Obama said recently he will work with congress to double US support for global food security to over $ 1 billion. What does that mean for WFP and the more than 100 million children, women and men who depend on us right now for food and nutritional assistance?

WASHINGTON -- Obama’s desire to strengthen US leadership in addressing global food insecurity is great news for the world’s hungry and poor. (White House Fact Sheet ) Doubling US agricultural development funding is an important part of that, and vital to long-term food security. But it won’t feed hungry mouths today.

Fortunately Obama hasn’t forgotten this. At the G-20 meeting in London earlier this month, he announced he would work with Congress to:

  • provide $448 million in immediate assistance to vulnerable populations “from Africa to Latin America”
  • support the United Nations and World Bank as they coordinate the rapid assistance necessary to prevent humanitarian catastrophe.”

Let’s take the first point – the $448 million in immediate assistance. The US Administration ought to look to WFP to play a significant role in implementing this assistance.  Why? Because we have a deep field presence and a proven record of emergency assistance and food safety net programs.

Additional $300 million

But is that enough? No, it isn’t. To its credit, the Administration has also asked Congress for an additional $300 million in emergency food aid for this year.  WFP, however, believes that $300 million should be increased to at least $750 million to ensure that the US has the funds to sustain its commitment to WFP at the $ 2 billion level in 2009.

WFP needs about $6 billion in 2009 to meet the needs of those 100 million and it depends on the United States as its largest donor to meet about 40% of those needs.

The US made an extraordinary effort in 2008, providing WFP over $2 billion in contributions last.  But current US food aid budget appropriations for fiscal year 2009 can only sustain a US contribution of about $1.3 billion this year.

Food and nutrition programmes

The economic stimulus passed by Congress earlier this year rightly included nearly $20 billion in additional funding for food and nutrition programmes to the economically vulnerable in the US. Is it too much to ask that the US provide less than a billion dollars in new food assistance to help the poor and hungry in the rest of the world?

I’m talking about the US but what I’m saying is equally valid for other countries. Are you willing to write to your Congressman, or Senator, or Member of Parliament to make sure your country continues a high level of financial support to global food assistance programmes?

And what do you think needs to be part of the comprehensive global food security policy and which the Obama Administration wants to develop?