Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Though the United States of America has developed a hate-love relationship with most countries in the world during the last two decades, it still remains one of the most charitable countries in this planet. According to available information the US contributes more than 20% of the global development aid followed by Germany, about 10%, of 120 billion dollars committed for development of poor countries. The Millenium Development Goals (MDG) signed in the year 2000 by all UNO members seek, among other things to eradicate poverty and hunger in the world and halve the population suffering from hunger by 2015 by committing 0.7% of GDP of each developed country for this Mission.

It is true that there is no compulsion on the part of any country however rich it may be to provide economic aid to poor nations which lag behind in the development ladder due to many reasons. Of course centuries of exploitation by the colonialist countries like Britain, France, Portugal, Spain and others had left many of the countries under their yolk unconscionably poor measured by any yardstick and unless these poor countries are provided massive economic and technological assistance they will always remain as lagers! MDG sought to address this problem which if not tackled with priority can endanger world peace seriously.

The three biggest colonialists Britain, France and Spain ruled almost half the world at one time and it is their moral duty that their erstwhile colonies are helped to become truly independent nations with reasonable standards of life for their citizens. Unfortunately the US had to assume the mantle of the global savior by providing economic aids to many of these poor countries. It is not a mean task to feed 55 million hungry people in 46 countries which the US has been able to do it last year costing millions of dollars to its Exchequer and the world must salute this country for its humanitarian effort. Obviously such endeavors can also attract criticism and some critics do believe that the economic aid provided by the US is an extension of its selfish agenda, viz furthering the interests of its farmers and industry. More over the aid helps only 55 million people out of about a billion hungry ones spread over the three continents.

The aid arm of the US, globally known as USAID channels the government program of food assistance
works through host governments, multilateral institutions, NGOs and private companies to ensure maximum efficiency in aid delivery. The African Growth Opportunities Act of 2000 ( AGOA) is intended to benefit the targeted countries through capacity building and it is tribute to the success of this program that countries like Angola, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Senegal and South Africa were able to export to the US goods and services worth $ 44 billion last year. Improvements in efficiency and impact of the program need assessment from time to time and a recent study report by the Tuft University of Massachusetts regarding the need for changing the orientation of the aid programs from quantity to quality is indeed revealing.

According to the findings of the above group, the American government should not be smug in its feeling that every thing is fine but must realize that delivering any and every food to the hungry is not enough. Quality needs to be upgraded and differentiated depending on the nature of the targeted groups. Tailoring the type of food delivered to specific consumers is the need of the hour as the nutritional requirements of recipients like children under the age of two, sick children, pregnant women new mothers and sick people. Most striking recommendation was for trying combinations of foods which are always better for the consumer than are combinations of nutrients in a single food. How far such wide ranging changes in aid paradigm are feasible, remains to be seen.

One of the most stringent criticisms against American food aid is about the stipulation that the budgeted amounts must be spent in America paying for American goods and services while Europeans allow 95% of the aid to be spent in the recipient country which is valid to some extent. Probably the food aid program in the US may see some see change in the coming years though the quantum of aid may shrink taking into consideration the current economic downturn in that country. What ever be the quantum of aid, it must be spent more efficiently through precise targeting and well balanced food products. The philosophy that "provide them calories, hunger is taken care of automatically" must give way to a policy "provide better food, make hungry people lead quality life".


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