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Drought-stricken Ethiopia is pleading for food aid again to stave off starvation, but some critics are complaining that the policies of the country's most generous donor, the United States, is exacerbating the cycle of starvation.
U.S. law requires that food aid money be spent on food grown in the U.S., at least half of it must be packed in the U.S. and most of it must be transported in U.S. ships. The Oxfam report, "Band Aids and Beyond," claims that is far more expensive and time consuming than buying food in the region.
"For roughly $1 spent on aid, the U.S. taxpayer is paying $2 to get it here," said Carolyn Gluck, an Oxfam spokeswoman.
Average Cost Differential (percentage by which the cost of U.S. in-kind
food aid differs from the cost of local procurement):
Worldwide: 25% more;
Sub-Saharan Africa: 34% more;
Asia: 29% more;
Latin America: 2% less.
Most funding for U.S. food aid is authorized under the Food for Peace Act and cannot be used to purchase foreign-grown food.
Funding under the act, approximately $2 billion per year, is restricted
to the purchase of U.S.-grown agricultural commodities.
The Cargo Preference Act, as amended, requires that up to
75 percent of the gross tonnage of agricultural foreign assistance
cargo be transported on U.S.-flag vessels.
U.S. Government Accountability Office reports show that of the nearly $2 billion a year allocated to foreign food aid, more than half of the funds are spent on transport, not the food.