Statement Announcing an African Hunger Relief Initiative

January 3, 1985

Hunger and extreme malnutrition now threaten over 14 million people in Africa through the end of 1985. In response to this human catastrophe, America has responded as a government and as a people in a tremendous outpouring of aid. This fiscal year, the United States has already committed to Africa over 600,000 tons of emergency food, worth $250 million -- this is in addition to our regular food aid program of about 1 million tons. The U.S. response has been far larger and faster than that of any other donor nation or institution.

The American people have also responded selflessly to this crisis, from the U.S. grain company that recently donated enough food to provide over 1 million meals to Ethiopian children to an elderly woman who sent the Agency for International Development (AID) $2. Yet, even with all our country has already done to feed the starving, more -- much more -- must be accomplished by our nation in the months ahead to meet this challenge.

I am thus announcing today a comprehensive African hunger relief initiative. It addresses Africa's immediate emergency food needs, its pressing refugee problems, and its need to stimulate agricultural development on that continent.

Based on my discussions with African officials, congressional and private sector leaders, heads of voluntary organizations, and members of my administration, I am today directing that the U.S. Government's total commitment to Africa for fiscal year 1985 for emergency and regular food aid and disaster relief programs exceed $1 billion. This aid will provide over 1.5 million tons of emergency food. This overall $1 billion program will include resources already committed to Africa for the coming year, other AID resources, and a supplemental request on which I will ask the 99th Congress to take immediate action.

I have also today approved a $25 million drawdown from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to finance urgent humanitarian assistance needs in Africa. This action is in response to appeals by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee for the Red Cross. This money will go to victims of the crises in Ethiopia, the Sudan, and other countries.

On the economic development side, efforts will continue on three fronts: policy reform, agricultural research, and human resource development.

This past March I directed a study to be undertaken to produce new, effective initiatives to address Third World hunger problems -- emergency situations, such as the Ethiopian tragedy, and longer term problems. In July this food aid task force completed its work on emergency food crises. On July 10, the anniversary of the Food for Peace (P.L. 480) Program, I announced an initiative to help cut down the response time to Third World life-threatening food emergencies. This is being done by the creation of a central forecasting capability for impending food emergencies; by prepositioning food for quick response; by helping poor countries pay for the sea and inland transportation of food; by increasing coordination among the donor countries; and by seeking increased private sector participation.

Today's food emergency in Africa reemphasizes the need to tackle the underlying structural problems of agricultural stagnation in the Third World. Poor countries must become more productive in agriculture if they are to grow the food so needed to feed their people.

Socialist economic systems, prevalent in underdeveloped countries, have failed to achieve economic growth and have weakened agricultural production by not paying farmers a living wage. As a result of this, coupled with the failure of the Soviet Union to fulfill its promises of economic assistance, an increasing number of Third World countries once dominated by the socialist model are experimenting with free market approaches.

The United States Government will thus implement a new food aid policy to be called Food for Progress. This policy will emphasize use of America's agricultural abundance to support countries which have made commitments to agricultural policy reform during a period of economic hardship, including: (1) adequate price levels for agricultural production, based on market principles, and (2) improved rural infrastructure and private sector involvement.

Provisions of Food for Progress will be presented to Congress this year. We hope that this approach holds the promise to help prevent tragedies like Ethiopia from recurring in future years.

Last year the administration initiated a 5-year program intended to support economic reform and agricultural production. Important work in agricultural research is also going forward, research that shows great promise of breakthroughs in seed varieties that can usher in a new era of productivity for rain-short regions of Africa.

The underlying structures of policies, institutions, appropriate technology, and human knowledge are being built. Progress is being made. We will not lose sight of the ultimate goal of strengthened economies, food self-sufficiency, and human enlightenment for Africa. But for the present, much of sub-Saharan Africa suffers increasingly from severe hunger, malnutrition, and starvation. A timely American response can save many lives. This is what the African hunger relief initiative is designed to do.