Africa Aid Officials Concerned as U.S. government proposes severe cuts in Foreign Aid

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Acutely malnourished child is treated at the Banadir Hospital after her mother fled the drought in southern Somalia and traveled by car to the capital Mogadishu, March 11, 2017. VOA

US, As the U.S. government proposes severe cuts in foreign aid, Africa and its neighbors are experiencing a massive hunger crisis, with 20 million people facing possible starvation in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen.

Aid officials say the proposed cuts would have a deep and disastrous impact in those countries and others. The United States is the largest single donor to the United Nations’ World Food Program, contributing just over $2 billion last year.

In dire times like these, says WFP East Africa spokeswoman Challiss McDonough, the aid agency needs more help than ever.

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Famine has been declared in parts of South Sudan, and in one remote village of 20,000 people, McDonough says, WFP’s meager food drops — consisting of a bit of sorghum, a handful of split peas and a few spoonfuls of vegetable oil — serve as a lifeline.

Women sit in line on the ground waiting to receive food distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) in Padeah, South Sudan, March 1, 2017. VOA

“Without those airdrops, if we weren’t able to keep those planes flying and to keep the food moving, to keep the helicopters flying, then people would literally have nothing,” she told VOA from Nairobi, Kenya. “The only thing that is standing between them and catastrophe is the food assistance that we can bring to them.”

That word — catastrophe — has come up often in global reactions to the proposed U.S. budget, which seeks a nearly 30 percent reduction in international programs, like the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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In a statement, the president and CEO of aid agency Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, said, “These cuts will be catastrophic for millions of families in developing countries,” adding that U.S. aid has had a massive global impact in the last two decades, reducing childhood deaths by more than 50 percent.

Ben Parker, a London-based editor and analyst with IRIN, a news agency specializing in humanitarian issues, says the international aid community is readying itself for a “shock” over the loss of aid.

“It’s going to hurt,” he said, “and it’s going to have consequences we’re not even sure about at this point when you look at the scale of the cuts, potentially, particularly to the U.N., which the administration has a particular lack of appetite for.” (VOA)