Despite announcing plans to cut aid by as much as 30%, U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday offered $639m in aid to feed people left starving in four drought and conflict plagued nations including Nigeria, with its Boko Haram insurgency ravaged north east zone described by the United Nations as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in over seven decades.
Other nations expected to benefit from the largesse announced at a working session of the G20 Summit of world leaders which ended in Hamburg, Germany on Saturday are: Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
The new funding, according to Reuters, brings to over $1.8bn aid promised by the United States for fiscal year 2017 for the crises in the four countries, where the United Nations has estimated more than 30m people need urgent food assistance.
The aid described by David Beasley, the new American executive director of the UN’s World Food Programme as “truly a life-saving gift,” will according to Rob Jenkins, acting head of the USAID’s bureau of democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance, will see $121m to Nigeria; over $191m to Yemen; $199m to South Sudan; and almost $126m for Somalia.
USAID was quoted as saying in a statement that this new assistance would enable the U.S provide “additional emergency food and nutrition assistance, life-saving medical care, improved sanitation, emergency shelter and protection for those who have been affected by conflict.”
For Beasley, a Republican and former South Carolina governor nominated by Trump to head the UN agency fight hunger worldwide, “we’re facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.”
“We’re in a dire situation right now,” said Jenkins, adding that USAID was also concerned with the situation in southern Ethiopia to which Washington had already provided some $252m this year.
“The situation in southern Ethiopia fortunately does not rise to the dire situation of the other four, but the situation is deteriorating and might very well be catastrophic without additional interventions,” he said, a, “but the needs continue to grow.”
Beasley said the U.S. funding was about a third of what the WFP estimated was required this year to deal with urgent food needs in the four countries in crisis as well as in other areas.
The WFP estimates that 109 million people around the world will need food assistance this year, up from 80 million last year, with 10 of the 13 worst-affected zones stemming from wars and “man-made” crises, Beasley said.
“We estimated that if we didn’t receive the funding we needed immediately that 400,000 to 600,000 children would be dying in the next four months,” he said.
While welcoming President Trump’s attention to the global humanitarian crisis, Rev. David Beckmann, president of the Washington-based Christian organization Bread for the World, however said in a statement that the aid represents what Congress approved months ago, but was delayed by his administration.
The WFP said in a tweet that the new U.S. donation “comes just as families face the time of year when food stocks run out.” The U.N. agency earlier this year warned that food aid could be cut for more than a million hungry Nigerians if promised funding from the international community didn’t arrive.
In May, Trump announced $329 million in “anti-famine” aid to the four countries.
While the Trump administration’s 2018 spending plan does not eliminate money for emergency food aid, it ends a critical program by consolidating it into a broader account that covers all international disaster assistance. Doing so reduces the amount of money the U.S. dedicates to fighting famine to $1.5bn next year, from $2.6 billion in 2016.