Senators urge USAID to hurry up and distribute congressionally approved aid amid global food crisis

Source: www.foxnews.com : 2022-07-13 17:11:49 : Caitlin McFall

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The threat of a global food crisis and the impending fallout has Senators on the Hill increasingly frustrated with how long it is taking to get aid to vulnerable nations like Ukraine, despite the funds having been congressionally approved in March.  

In a Tuesday night letter led by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, to U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power, a bipartisan group of senators urged the ambassador to hasten the distribution of funds and address “mismanagement” in the agency. 

“The world has not faced a conflict-driven humanitarian and hunger crisis of this magnitude since World War II,” the senators wrote in a letter obtained by Fox News Digital. “USAID has existing tools and authorities to move quickly to expedite humanitarian aid that would mitigate Putin’s efforts to starve the developing world.”

FILE- Malian women sift wheat in a field near Segou, central Mali, Jan. 22, 2013. In 2022, Families across Africa are paying about 45% more for wheat flour as Russia's war in Ukraine blocks exports from the Black Sea. 

FILE- Malian women sift wheat in a field near Segou, central Mali, Jan. 22, 2013. In 2022, Families across Africa are paying about 45% more for wheat flour as Russia’s war in Ukraine blocks exports from the Black Sea. 
(AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

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The senators said that so far USAID’s “effectiveness and stewardship” in responding to the global crisis sparked by the war warranted “significant concern.”

In the weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Congress appropriated emergency funds for humanitarian aid in March, but lawmakers said that as of May 16, only 60 percent of the funds had been committed and less than a third had been disbursed.

The letter further said that reports had surfaced blaming senior agency leadership for slowing up the process by “second-guessing humanitarian priorities” and attempting to deviate funds to “irrelevant development” projects.

“Nations in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere have sounded the alarm that without immediate aid, their people could face acute hunger and starvation, opening the path for violence and instability in large parts of the world,” they wrote.  “Unless the United States translates well-meaning rhetoric and appropriated dollars into a swift humanitarian response, Russia’s crimes against humanity and weaponization of the global food supply will go unpunished.”

The senators asked that the delivery of nearly $10 billion in pre-approved funds be “expedited” so that more than 13 million Ukrainians can gain access to food, medicine and shelter. 

The funds will further assist “hundreds of millions” more facing food insecurity around the world following the months-long shipping blockade in the Black Sea. 

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2017 file photo, children wait for transportation after receiving food donated by the World Food Program, in Kabul, Afghanistan. On Friday, Oct. 9, 2020 the WFP won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity around the globe. 

FILE – In this Jan. 24, 2017 file photo, children wait for transportation after receiving food donated by the World Food Program, in Kabul, Afghanistan. On Friday, Oct. 9, 2020 the WFP won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity around the globe. 
(AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, )

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The lawmakers are also looking for answers on the second supplemental package that Congress approved in May, but according to reports in June, may not reach those in need until the fall. 

The letter comes as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization projects that more than 180 million people around the globe are already facing “significant food shortages.”

A USAID spokesperson pushed back on the claims that the agency is not moving fast enough and told Fox News Digital that its response to the crisis has been “unprecedented in speed and scale.”

A tractor at work in Ukraine, which, together with Russia, made up 30% of the world's grain exports  before the war.

A tractor at work in Ukraine, which, together with Russia, made up 30% of the world’s grain exports  before the war.
(UN World Food Programme)

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The spokesperson said the agency is working to not only meet the needs of Ukrainians but is “rapidly scaling up assistance to places already experiencing acute food insecurity and hit hard by Russia’s war in Ukraine like Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Yemen.”

The remainder of the funding is set to be spent by the end of 2022 “to ensure we are able to maintain a steady infusion of resources into humanitarian programs through the fall and winter when we expect to see the worst effects of the food crisis in many parts of the world,” the spokesperson added. 

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