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Bush Seeks to Boost US Food Aid to Neediest Countries


The Bush administration says it is working to provide additional food aid to hunger-ravaged countries that need it most. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from the White House, the initiative comes at a time when food prices have been rising sharply around the world, and many nations are complaining of severe shortages of basic goods.

The Bush administration notes that the United States is already the world's largest emergency food provider, contributing more than $2 billion in food aid last year that reached tens of millions of people in dozens of countries.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says President Bush wants to do more, and that Mr. Bush raised the issue at a cabinet meeting Monday.

"We are in a process right now of looking at ways to meet some of the ongoing food needs of certain countries beyond what has already been provided," said Dana Perino. "The president has raised this issue with his national security advisors and has asked that the State Department and USAID look at what can be done in the near term."

Perino did not list any specific countries to be targeted for additional food aid. But, in recent months, shortages of basic food staples have been reported in nations from Asia to Africa to the Americas. Just days ago, Haitian lawmakers dismissed their country's prime minister, saying he had failed to control soaring food prices.

Perino says swift action is required, but long-term solutions are also needed. She says food shortages and spiking food costs do not arise from any single event or trend, but rather result from a combination of factors that must be dealt with comprehensively.

"One [factor] is demand," she said. "Demand is extremely high. You also have transportation costs, and of course energy costs come into that when people are trying to move food from one place to another. In addition you have weather-related events such as the drought in Australia in which their wheat crops have not been as fruitful as in the past and so the prices have gone up there."

President Bush is not alone in calling for action. World Bank President Robert Zoellick is warning that surging food prices could push 100 million people in low-income nations into deeper poverty. Zoellick has called on food donor nations to provide an additional $500 million worth of immediate aid to combat the situation - a goal he says has only been partially met to date.

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