Statement on Signing the African Famine Relief Bill

April 5, 1985

Last January I announced the African hunger relief initiative, a program of action to provide over $1 billion to combat famine and malnutrition, which threaten the lives of over 14 million Africans. All Americans have been horrified at the unfolding human tragedy in Africa. The overwhelming response has been heartwarming and in the best tradition of American values and ideals. Through a community effort at all levels of American society, Americans have selflessly contributed resources, food, and their services to meet the needs of African famine victims. I am proud to say that America's massive response has been successful in preventing millions of Africans from dying.

Last month Vice President Bush visited Sudan, Niger, and Mali, three of the most seriously drought-affected countries, to study firsthand the dimensions of the famine problem, what we and other donors have been able to accomplish, and what still needs to be done. Though profoundly shocked by the degree of human suffering witnessed during the trip, the Vice President did see signs of hope. He saw that the tremendous amounts of U.S. food are indeed reaching famine victims with the help of private voluntary agencies and local governments.

The U.S. response has been far larger and faster than that of any other nation or institution. Yet, it is apparent to all that more needs to be done. This is the reason for the legislation that I submitted to Congress in January and have now signed. H.R. 1239 makes available an additional $1 billion to meet Africa's emergency needs -- an amount which I should note substantially exceeds the administration's current estimate of need. However, this bill, as I requested, does support the U.S. objective of providing up to 50 percent of the emergency food aid requirements in Africa. Moreover, there is sufficient flexibility for the administration to ensure that all food aid is used effectively. Thus, I intend to abide by the intent of Congress in ensuring that all the food and funds that the United States provides are directed efficiently at meeting real needs and that aid will not exceed logistical capacities. Misuse of assistance is particularly unacceptable when human lives are at stake. Moreover, as we continue to increase our shipments of food aid to those at risk in Africa, we also will continue to ensure that our aid does not provide a disincentive to increased local production that is critical to solving Africa's food problem in the long term. We are confident that, together with contributions from other donor nations, we now have the resources to combat the immediate crisis and that as a result further millions of lives will be saved.

I want to again thank the American people for their selfless outpouring of donations. We have once again shown the world that individual caring and giving is an American way of life.

Note: H.R. 1239, approved April 4, was assigned Public Law No. 99 - 10.