Fighting the 7,000 Mile Food Chain

Congress met on Wednesday, June 12 to consider the Food Aid Reform Act, which would circumvent traditional aid channels by spending cash directly on locally produced food. Andrew Natsios, a professor at Texas A&M, called for the abolition of the “7,000 miles food chain” of aid from U.S. farms to emergency zones all over the world—which he argues would actually benefit U.S. industry.

“You have to order the food in the Midwest, it gets put on a ship, it can go 7,000 miles to the other side of the world, put on to trucks, and then moved into the famine or emergency zone,” he testified. “If the food is bought locally, you can avoid the 7,000-mile food chain.”

Avoiding that food chain would get food aid on the ground up to 14 weeks faster and reach 2-4 million more people, expert advocates say. Not only that, but it would cut food transportation costs completely, which currently eats up 50% of the foreign food aid budget. If those funds were reallocated as direct spending in foreign food markets, the same aid would be healthier, more efficient, and offer greater hope for a future sustainable economy. Cash inflow would empower local farmers and food manufacturers, rather than undermining their businesses the way traditional food aid does.

Yet the act is not a purely philanthropic one, Natsios suggested. The U.S. food industry would actually benefit from smarter aid. Currently, growing excess crops and dumping them overseas supports the farm subsidy framework that props up the food trade, but the burgeoning economies in the Middle East and Africa are actually raising up new hosts of consumers for U.S. farms and food commodities. Thus, helping to develop them by growing less, rather than undermine them by growing more, would be a great boon for U.S. companies.

– John Mahon

Sources: The Guardian, The Hill, MFAN

US AIDS Efforts Have Surpassed GoalsOn the 10th anniversary of the American President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a new study released by a panel at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) shows that PEPFAR efforts have surpassed goals which were initially proposed to provide medical care for those who are HIV positive and suffer from AIDS. The PEPFAR program also includes prevention measures in communities affected by the disease.

Initiated in 2003 under President George W. Bush, PEPFAR’s initial goal was to provide medical care for 12 million people and to provide 6 million people with HIV antiretroviral treatments. Today, around 5 million people have received the medication through PEPFAR, and the program is providing care to over 15 million people – well surpassing the original goal. At least 4.5 million of those receiving support are children. The care of children was a high priority when the program was initiated, as many children have become orphans because of the AIDS epidemic. The report states that PEPFAR has “provided unprecedented support” for these children since it began.

A decade ago, PEPFAR began with $15 billion in funding from the U.S. government – the largest project in history aimed at tackling a single health issue. Today, funds dedicated to AIDS relief amount to over $37 billion, with an additional $7 billion donated to help eradicate tuberculosis and malaria.

The IOM report went on to praise the U.S. for its role in drastically scaling back the number of people worldwide affected by the disease. The Obama Administration has also vowed to continue support for AIDS relief, announcing plans for an “AIDS-free generation” by putting a heavy emphasis on prevention. The study also takes the stance that prevention is a crucial component to continue exceeding goals and that “long-term success in keeping disease at bay will depend on countries making a transition,” where the mindset of healthcare systems shifts from that of an aid recipient to a medical institution that cultivates proper treatment and prevention methods.

Christina Kindlon

Source: All Africa