BACKGROUND: According to the United Nations World Food Program more than 38 million people in southern Africa, the Horn (e.g., Ethiopia) and the region of the Sahel (western Africa) face the threat of famine due to a combination of serious drought, floods, an explosion of infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, ineffective food policies, political turmoil, debilitating poverty, and unemployment. The crisis is further exacerbated by highly politicized debates surrounding the provision of genetically modified grains (GMOs), and by agricultural policies in the developed world that create an unfair trading environment and do little to promote economic development and the eradication of poverty.
In accord with the U.S. Bishop's statement, "A Call to Solidarity with Africa", Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the Catholic Bishop's Conference, has sent an appeal to Catholic dioceses urging Catholics to support the efforts of Catholic Relief Services to address this crisis. In October, 2002, a U.S. Bishops delegation visited countries most affected by the current food crisis in southern Africa and issued a report calling for greater humanitarian assistance to help avert a potential disaster, and more flexibility on the part of the international community and African governments in responding to the food crisis. Catholic Relief Services, together with the United Nations World Food Program, the United States Agency for International Development, and executives from a number of humanitarian organizations launched a global campaign (Baltimore Declaration) to help avert the impending disaster.
ISSUE: While we commend the Administration for the lead it has taken in supplying food aid, the failure of Congress to pass a 2003 budget, has left insufficient funds for food emergency programs. CRS and other emergency relief organizations are already unable to access adequate food aid to respond. Unless solved, the funding crisis will also likely drain food aid and other resources from development programs needed to end the cycle of poverty exacerbating this and other crises around the world. Should Congress approve substantial funding for food aid in the fiscal year 2003 budget, supplemental appropriations will still be needed to address the emergency in Africa.
- Contact your Member of Congress and press for immediate enactment of the full $1.2 billion for food aid (Title II in PL 480) in the agricultural appropriations bill, and a minimum of $600 million to as much as $800 million in supplemental appropriations for food aid to address the expanding Africa food crisis.
- Encourage support for the efforts of Catholic Relief Services as it responds to this crisis.