March 22, 2017

Corker: U.S. Must Prioritize Humanitarian Access, Fix Inefficiencies in Food Aid Delivery Amid Global Humanitarian Crisis

WASHINGTON – At a hearing on the state of global humanitarian affairs, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for prioritizing humanitarian access and reforming the delivery of U.S. global food assistance as the population of people suffering from conflict and failing governance is at a scale not seen since World War II.

“Today’s hearing is an opportunity to understand how these crises affect U.S. interests and review how we might better work to sustain life, support stability, and help communities become more resilient,” said Corker. “It is also imperative that we discuss ways to stretch our aid dollars further through food aid reforms and efficiencies—feeding more people with the same level of funding—and I hope our committee can come together to support such reforms during next year’s farm bill reauthorization. Finally, we must look at the instruments of our diplomatic, development, economic, and defense power and determine how we might best put them to use in reversing this trend that leads to instability and threatens our interests.”

Corker stressed that the U.S. will continue to support humanitarian assistance worldwide, and he pressed witnesses to identify what immediate action could help prevent significant casualties in the coming weeks from the mounting threat of starvation in countries like Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.

“We understand that people today as we sit here are dying; what is it that we can do right now today to help try to meet the needs over the next two weeks?,” asked Corker.

“If dollars aren’t reaching their intended targets in some of these cases, it’s because of obstacles being presented by the governments of these countries,” responded Nancy Lindborg, president of the United States Institute of Peace. “Where there could be very effective immediate action is making it clear to the governments of South Sudan and to various actors in the Yemen conflict, for example, that the world will respond and we need them to do their part.”

Corker also emphasized the need to fix inefficient food aid delivery practices, including U.S. commodity and cargo preferences, that could free up $440 million in existing resources and feed five million additional people each year in a shorter period of time.

“I just hope that somehow we will overcome the special interests here in our country so that we can pass simple legislation to allow five million more people each year to have food with the same amount of money,” said Corker.

Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.

According to the United Nations, the world faces the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945 with close to 70 million in need of assistance, including 20 million people in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria now at risk of starvation. As the U.N. seeks donations to meet the enormous need in these countries, the United States remains the largest contributor to the World Food Program that responds to food emergencies and is fulfilling its pledged commitments.

The committee also heard testimony today from Gregory C. Gottlieb, acting assistant administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); and Yves Daccord, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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