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Aid Groups Plan Renewed Fight On Hunger

Lost jobs, faltering banks and recession have pushed the issue of world hunger out of U. S. headlines, but U. S. aid groups are set to launch a plan to refocus attention on the issue, former U. S. senator George McGovern said Feb. 23.

The plan by aid organizations including Feed the Children, Oxfam America, the U. S. Fund for UNICEF and Catholic Relief Services, may be the key to persuade President Barack Obama’s administration to move ahead on hunger issues once the domestic economy is stabilized, said McGovern, a veteran of the effort to end world hunger.

The pressing need to feed the nearly one billion people around the world who are chronically hungry has faded from public attention, McGovern said.

“It’s back on the backburner right now, but there’s still a flame there. It’s a focus now on our own domestic economic problems that transcends the focus on anything else in government,” he said.

Food prices soared last year, causing riots and hoarding in some countries. But commodity prices have since plunged, and the economic crisis has preoccupied policy-makers.

McGovern said the groups want Obama to create a White House Office on Global Hunger and appoint a co-ordinator for U. S. efforts, which have been criticized as fragmented.

The organizations are also set to recommend a shift in the type of food aid provided, balancing traditional donations of U. S.-grown commodities for emergencies with longer-term aid to help countries develop agriculture and food security.

The plan will call for more flexibility to allow emergency aid to be bought locally rather than spending extra money and time to ship it from the United States.

The idea could face strong opposition from farm groups and shipping companies who prefer food for aid is bought in the United States and transported via American carriers overseas.

In their detailed “road map” released Feb. 24, the groups propose more than a three fold increase in U. S. spending by 2014 to meet the goal of halving world hunger by 2015.

The United States, which spent almost $4 billion last year on world hunger, should boost funding to $13.31 billion per year by 2014, starting with a 60 per cent jump to $6.36 billion in 2010, the organizations will propose.

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