January 16, 2003, Washington, DC - In
a letter addressed to Senator Tom Daschle, Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
Executive Director Ken Hackett thanked the Senate Minority Leader and Senator
Patrick Leahy for introducing the Africa Famine Relief Act, a bill that
would authorize immediate emergency funding to address the severe food
and HIV/AIDS crises affecting more than 30 million Africans.
"Due to a 30% increase in commodity prices and the unanticipated African food aid needs, the budget request of $1.2 billion will not enable the U.S. to meet its historic commitment of providing 50% of emergency requirements," Hackett said in the letter. "We at CRS agree with you that we must enact robust emergency appropriations so that [private voluntary organizations] can continue food aid development programs that will help prevent the next famine."
Hackett praised the congressional leaders, including Representative Frank Wolf, who just returned from Ethiopia and Eritrea, for focusing on the needs of Africa and seeking the necessary resources to avert a catastrophic famine.
"We are committing our own resources but only the federal government and other donor nations can provide the combination of massive assistance required. As your bill provides, this must include food aid, HIV/AIDS, and other emergency relief and recovery programs," Hackett said.
Countries throughout Africa are currently facing severe food shortages and possible famine as a result of a convergence of multiple factors, some natural, such as drought and floods, and some man-made, such as government policy. The crisis is exacerbated by an HIV/AIDS rate averaging more than 20 percent in the affected countries. Those infected with the disease require 30 to 50 percent greater daily caloric intake.
Catholic Relief Services is one of the lead agencies of the C-Safe consortium of American private voluntary organizations that will distribute food in the southern Africa region through September 2003 and is participating in the World Food Program's food distribution network. In the Horn of Africa, CRS seeks to reach more than 4.7 million people with food assistance through April 2003 in coordination with its partnering international and Ethiopian relief organizations.
Catholic Relief Services is marking its 60th year as the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community. The agency provides assistance to people in more than 87 countries and territories on the basis of need, not race, creed or nationality.
Franne Van der Keilen