Feature_foodaidsept2 - F E A T U R E 38 A M B E R WAV E S VO L U M E 2 ISSUE 4 WFP/Brenda Barton E C O N O M I C R E S E A R C H S E RV I C E U S

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FEATURE Fifty Years of U.S. Food Aid and Its Role in Reducing World Hunger S HAHLA S HAPOURI s hapo u [email protected] s . us da.gov S TACEY R O S EN s lro s [email protected] s . us da.gov WWW.ERS.USDA.GOV/AMBERWAVES 39 AMBER WAVES SEPTEMBER 2004 In 1996, the World Food Summit set its sights on reducing by half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. But 8 years after the signing of this declaration, the international community is coming to grips with the fact that it will fall far short of its goal. All indicators developed by ERS lead to the inescapable conclusion that the aggregate food security situa- tion—measured by food availability of many low-income coun- tries—has hardly improved at all in the last decade. Reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations tell the same story. Among the reasons for chronic undernutrition in the poorest countries are slow growth in domestic food produc- tion, high population growth, inadequate purchasing power, and frequent setbacks associated with natural and manmade shocks, such as drought, hurricanes, and civil strife. To count- er the trend, the ultimate goal is to reduce the impacts of shocks, which reduce food production and consume too many resources in countries with too few to spare. Until that long- term goal can be met, it is critical to strengthen the food safe- ty net in the most vulnerable countries. Because most poor countries do not have national food safety net programs, they depend on international food aid. But food aid increasingly falls short of needs: quantities change annually, and overall levels have grown only minimally during the life of the pro- grams. The uncertain availability of food aid, though worri- some, is just one reason why food aid has not played a larger role in reducing world hunger. Differing objectives in food aid programs, lack of consistency among donors’ approaches to food aid, and types of food donated are just a few factors that limit the effectiveness (the degree to which it reduces a coun- try’s food gaps) of food aid. Future of Food Aid Programs Is Uncertain The global quantity of food aid has fluctuated during the last two decades, and its share has declined relative to both total agricultural exports from food aid suppliers and total food imports of low-income countries. The virtual stagnation in the level of food aid over time is not likely to change, and it may even decline if budgets remain tight. As major donor nations reduce market support to agriculture due to budget constraints as well as to comply with their commitments to the World Trade Organization, decreases in surplus food production will likely follow. The costs of food aid may increase as a result.
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Feature_foodaidsept2 - F E A T U R E 38 A M B E R WAV E S VO L U M E 2 ISSUE 4 WFP/Brenda Barton E C O N O M I C R E S E A R C H S E RV I C E U S

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