Some lawmakers in Congress are pushing for more money to help people in the Darfur region of western Sudan as well as refugees from Darfur who fled to neighboring countries. The lawmakers say humanitarian assistance included in legislation the House of Representatives will consider next week must be increased.
The United States has taken the lead in aid to Darfur, where attacks by government-backed Arab militia forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes, and left possibly tens of thousands dead.
On top of about $300 million in aid approved by Congress this year, a bill due to be considered by the House next week includes another $92 million for humanitarian assistance in Darfur.
But Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., a Democrat serving on the House Appropriations Committee, says that is just not sufficient:
"The Congress and the U.S. government [are] under an obligation, since we are leading the way in the charge of genocide, to do something about it," said Jesse Jackson Jr. "We pledged this would never happen again, and if this appropriations bill remains silent to food assistance, disaster assistance, and refugee assistance, we will be offering at best hollow words without the substance to do something about the crisis."
President Bush asked for $150 million in food aid for Darfur as part of his request for nearly $82 billion to fund U.S. military operations and other needs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the amount for Sudan was reduced to $92 million as Republican lawmakers on the appropriations committee sought to trim the war funding bill.
Mr. Jackson wants to restore the president's original number, and add to that another $100 million for disaster and refugee aid for Sudan, and for other countries such as Congo.
The Bush administration says it continues to urge other countries to step up their contributions for Darfur.
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher reviewed the U.S. assistance role during a briefing earlier this week:
"We as you know lead the world in providing humanitarian assistance to southern Sudan and the Darfur crisis," said Richard Boucher. "To date, in fiscal year 2005, we provided more than $309 million in humanitarian assistance in Darfur and for the 213,000 refugees who fled into Chad. From fiscal year 2003 to 2005 we have contributed more than $567 million, so the United States has certainly been at the forefront of the donor community."
The U.S. government and Congress have formally described events in Darfur as genocide.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said this week the world must move faster to deal with the situation in Sudan.
Another U.N. official said international contributions for southern Sudan are lagging behind a goal of $500 million donors were asked to meet in a conference last October.
An international donors conference focusing on reconstruction in southern Sudan is scheduled to take in Norway in early April.