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Opinion: Improving U.S. Foreign Assistance; Revisiting U.S. Food Aid

U.S. Citizens Deserve Improved Foreign Assistance Program

“Bureaucratic sprawl has sapped the strength of many of [U.S.] aid programs. Our government’s global development policies and programs are scattered across 12 departments, 25 different agencies and nearly 60 government offices. The organization chart looks like a haystack, and it needs new, clear lines of responsibility,” Charles Raynal, a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, writes in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion piece.

According to Raynal, the U.S. is “in danger of frittering away the great legacy of using foreign assistance to help the poorest of the poor and win the hearts of nations engulfed by hunger, disease and refugee displacement.” U.S. aid programs should be reformed because of “[p]resent dangers to our national security,” he writes. “Assisting impoverished people to grow food, receive medicine and have hope for a normal life is a moral imperative for the United States,” Raynal writes, noting that “[b]oth houses of Congress are debating how to reform the delivery of development assistance.”

“In the end, every citizen of the United States deserves to know that our public officials use our foreign assistance resources in a well-coordinated, efficient and transparent way,” he concludes (10/9).

Revisiting U.S. Food Aid

“The recent disastrous earthquake in Indonesia has prompted a quick humanitarian response from Western countries, raising some key questions: Who decides what kind of emergency food aid is delivered, and should it be healthier? This argument is not new — nutritionists and development workers have been debating it for years — but improved food options are causing it to heat up again,” Jim Motavalli, writes in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. “A rising chorus is advocating that food-aid staples — which have the advantage of being affordable and widely available — be replaced with” Plumpy’nut, “a highly nutritious, easily transportable paste,” Motavalli writes, noting that “Plumpy’nut tastes like peanut butter, and kids love to eat it. But it’s expensive, and critics say it’s better to reach as many people as possible with a more affordable choice. And the need remains great.”

For many food aid critics, the delivery method is not the issue, it’s the actual food itself, “which critics say is failing to address childhood malnutrition,” he writes, adding that the source of the food and how it impacts local trade is an “extremely sensitive issue.” Motavalli looks at the WHO’s recommendations and also quotes some food aid experts who raise different points. He concludes, “We [the U.S.] do need to take a second look at our food policy. But with donor fatigue and a world economic crisis as obstacles, the fight to bring Plumpy’nut and other, healthier options to a broader population might be stalled for some time” (10/8).

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