Monday, August 15, 2011

Hillary Clinton On Not Cutting Aid

On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed for support for President Obama's embattled global farm aid-program. She stated that the reforms it promotes are the same preventive measures that are being used and getting results in East Africa.

Her appeal was in response to the potential steep budget cuts facing the administration's signature program "Feed the Future." The White House has requested $1.4 billion for the project in 2012. However, the House Appropriations committee has slashed several accounts, leaving the program with one-third less in funding.

Clinton stated that Africa has seen cyclical droughts for decades and that "it would be easy to throw up our hands." But, working with poor countries to provide things such as improved seeds and extension services is too important and saves lives.

Feed the Future is part of an international efforts to improve the productivity of small farmers in Africa and other developing areas.

"While some might say that this is a conversation for another time -- that we should worry about preventing food crises only after this one has passed -- I disagree," Clinton stated during a speech at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

"Right now, we must rededicate ourselves to breaking the cycle of food shortages, suffering and dislocation that we see playing out once again in the Horn of Africa."

Crises like these are completely preventable, and much less expensive for aid programs and the US government if preventative measures such as the Feed the Future program was implemented.

About 12 million people are starving in East Africa. Because of international agriculture programs, the number of Ethiopians that risk starvation has plummeted from 13 million in the 2002 drought to 5 million in the current disaster.

Still, 5 million people dying of starvation is atrocious. People do not realize how important these programs and how little we spend on them. And in addition, how much money would be saved if we actually invested in preventing these tragedies beforehand. Specialists knew for months that the drought was coming. But when did the world react? Not until after the shock had hit and millions were dying.

-Gabrielle Gurian