Yesterday, I contacted the office of my congressional representative, Steve Driehaus. I asked for his support of the Roadmap to End Global Hunger legislation (H.R. 2817). I had previously contacted his office about the Roadmap in September.
Congress needs to act on this bill. So I hope that Rep. Driehaus and his colleagues will give their support. When you look at how over 1 billion people are suffering from hunger, it is clear that the issue of hunger needs to be at the top of the foreign policy agenda.
In many countries, hunger threatens the prospects for peace and development. Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, and Haiti are some of the countries living with this food insecurity.
The Roadmap to End Global Hunger came about from the recommendations of a number of charities, including Save the Children, Mercy Corps, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services and the Friends of the World Food Program.
The Roadmap calls for the creation of a White House office on global hunger to provide more effective coordination of the different U.S. agencies involved in the food crisis. The State Department's Food Security initiative also calls for this increased coordination. Their web site reads,"Coordination will be improved among U.S. government agencies through a whole-of-government strategy led by a U.S. Global Food Security Coordinator."
Last year Ambassador Michael Klosson of Save the Children explained, “you really need someone with the President's backing to hold people's feet to the fire, ensure accountability, and make sure agencies across the administration work well together in pursuing an ambitious food security agenda.”
I also asked Ambassador Klosson about the importance of having hunger on the agenda of critical national security meetings. Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq are a few of these countries that are high on America’s security interests, yet they suffer tremendous hunger and poverty rates.
Ambassador Klosson said, “Given the importance of dealing with hunger, including in conflict and emergency situations, it is essential that such considerations are factored into policy recommendations and deliberations at the highest levels of the U.S. Government. That's the type of coordination that can really make a difference in people's lives, and in a way that directly improves their well-being and serves our national security interests.”
Heather Hanson of Mercy Corps points out that the Roadmap will also help improve the coordination of Congressional oversight. Hanson says, “Right now US programs to address global hunger are spread across many different agencies and several Congressional Committees share oversight responsibilities. This often means that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, which can lead to duplication of efforts and also to some important gaps going unfilled. Having adequate coordination and oversight is essential to making sure all the programs we support are mutually reinforcing and focused on really getting assistance to the hungry people who need it most, as well as making sure that the programs are not handouts, but are structured to help hungry people help themselves.”
Internally displaced people from Abyei divide up emergency food rations distributed by the UN World Food Programme.(UNMIS/Tim McKulka)
The Roadmap bill also emphasizes child nutrition programs across the globe. These initiatives serve as a valuable safety net for children and their families. One of the most critical of these is school feeding which enhances not just nutrition, but also education. These two benefits are the foundation of a nation’s future. We know from our experience after World War II that American foreign policy is at its best when it supports child feeding programs. This was a very important aspect of the Marshall Plan era.
Rep Driehaus, in his letter to me last fall said, “A population with a better level of nutrition enjoys a higher quality of life and a better chance for sustained economic development.” This is the essence of the Roadmap to End Global Hunger.
So far, 34 members of Congress have jumped on to support, or co-sponsor, the Roadmap bill. The public can help influence whether more sign on. If everyone would write a note to their representative, it could jumpstart this process and get global hunger where it needs to be: At the forefront of American foreign policy.
The Friends of the World Food Program have set up a take action page for the Roadmap to End Global Hunger.