Social Justice News
April 17, 2008

CRS urges immediate global hunger relief
As the cost of food around the world spirals upward, causing widespread hunger and triggering riots in cities in several nations, Catholic Relief Services is urging the Administration and Congress to immediately increase global food assistance to the developing world. At the same time, CRS is calling on the United States and other nations to intensify the search for means to provide long-term food security.

To meet the pressing need for feeding the poorest and most vulnerable people, an immediate appropriation of up to $900 million is required simply to buy the same amount of food aid that the United States provided last year. However, rising costs and demand for emergency aid may well require added resources to keep pace with last year's aid levels.

We applaud the Bush Administration's decision to tap $200 million from the nation's emergency food aid reserve, known as the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. This action, recommended last week by CRS, will jump start an emergency response to the pressing needs of this food crisis. It is now imperative that $100 million be appropriated to replenish this vital food aid reserve. This release from the Emerson Trust does not diminish the need for supplemental food aid funding.

This spike in food prices is not just a short-term crisis. The International Food Policy Research Institute is projecting high commodity prices to last for the next decade.

"We are witnessing the unfolding of an historic calamity," said Sean Callahan, CRS Executive Vice President for Overseas Operations.

"If a typical family living on $2 per day or less used to spend more than half their income on food, what happens when prices suddenly increase by more than 30 percent? They go hungry," Callahan said.

"The Administration and Congress need to formulate an urgent response to this crisis that addresses the immediate needs as well as the long-term challenges. Otherwise we will end up looking back with shame on a missed opportunity to avert untold suffering on a global scale — and to ensure that such a crisis does not happen again."

CRS field offices around the world are already reporting and responding to the effects of commodity price increases:

CRS is continuing to distribute food to those who need it, including the desperately poor, orphans and other vulnerable children, pregnant women and the sick. Additional emergency food distributions are being arranged in CRS field programs as conditions require them.

In several countries, CRS is also arranging for the distribution of vouchers to purchase seeds and tools that will enable suburban and rural communities to bolster harvests. In urban areas, CRS is working mainly through the Missionaries of Charity to strengthen a joint response to a significant increase in demand for their services.

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