Typhoon Haiyan: A call to action on food aid reform

The need for food aid reform has never been clearer than in the constraints on our ability to respond to the recent typhoon in the Philippines, which has claimed at least several thousand lives and left millions homeless, hungry and in great need.

While the immediate response to meet the recovery challenges has been herculean, there are demonstrated flaws that could cost lives.  For example, USAID is reporting that the first shipment of 1,000 tons of rice, which is prepositioned in Sri Lanka, will not reach starving people for another three weeks!

More substantial US food aid shipments, which have to come from the United States, could take several more months. In the meantime, those affected will have to make do with much smaller relief efforts and limited cash flows to purchase supplies that are needed now.

RELATED: How US food aid reform will fight hunger for 4 million people

At issue is the current lack of flexibility in US food aid that is focused on US-sourced commodities. ONE’s call for reform to expand resources available for Local and Regional Procurement would allow rice and other essential food supplies to be purchased closer to the Philippines from neighboring countries like Thailand and Indonesia, and then shipped directly to the devastated areas.

Additionally, to the extent that limited cash resources are used for Filipino relief, it will reduce the availability of cash that can be used for other disasters. In fact, helping the refugees and internally displaced persons from the ongoing conflict in Syria has strained USAID’s ability to ensure quick action in either case.

So, the need for food aid reform is immediate. The FARRM bill conferees – who will be meeting this week – have the chance to not only save countless lives in the Philippines and elsewhere, but they have the rare opportunity to fix problems within the system that could lead to a more efficient and effective way to deal with such disasters in the future.

Make the call today. And donate to one of these 45 experienced humanitarian groups to help the victims of Haiyan