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CRS Commits $1 Million to Food Crisis Response

Catholic Relief Services is responding to the with an initial $1 million commitment in private funding for projects over the next two months that will help hungry people in a half dozen countries buy food and prepare for the next planting season.

The response reflects CRS' ongoing two-pronged strategy of providing food, cash and vouchers to meet the immediate needs of those struggling to cope with rising food prices, particularly the urban poor, while also supporting smallholder farmers to increase crop production and improve market access. The use of CRS private funds will help to leverage substantial public funding in the near future.

Food distribution

Students have a free meal distributed by a government-run school in a village in India. Photo by Reuters/Jayanta Dey, courtesy AlertNet

This initial response targets countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.

"This is the first salvo in what will be a long-term response to a long-term crisis," says CRS President Ken Hackett. "This food crisis is just beginning. By early next year, it will be deeper and broader as more segments of society are pushed into poverty by the combination of higher prices for food and energy worldwide. We must act now."

CRS has also already received a substantial $10 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) office of Food for Peace to meet the immediate needs of those most affected by the food crisis in Haiti. This emergency food security program will enable CRS to reach more than 382,000 Haitians during the next year.

CRS Haiti is distributing 7,730 metric tons of cereals, legumes and oils to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable groups through orphanages, nutrition programs for pregnant and nursing women, primary school lunches, and assistance for people living with HIV and AIDS. To meet the longer-term and livelihood needs of families, a food-for-work program will help people help themselves by improving agricultural infrastructure and drainage to mitigate the effects of ecological degradation and severe weather.

Priority Projects

  • Afghanistan: Paying workers to construct water systems for crop irrigation. Food prices are taking a toll on households in the north and west of the country, which have just experienced one of the harshest winters in 30 years and are now facing crop failures due to low rainfall. A water system would have an immediate impact on the fall wheat-planting season. With this funding, work will begin immediately.
  • Ethiopia: Buying food for the urban poor, to be distributed by the Missionaries of Charity. The food crisis in the urban areas of Ethiopia is dire. The Missionaries of Charity sisters have seen a major increase in demand for their support. This funding will pay for additional food, particularly for children and nursing mothers, and will provide support for therapeutic feeding centers to treat the most malnourished, principally children.
  • Indonesia: Distributing food baskets for poor families in the slums of Jakarta. The Catholic Archdiocese of Jakarta will distribute food baskets containing rice, cooking oil, sugar and mung beans to the poorest families it serves, who live in fishing villages and garbage dump sites in the city.
  • Guatemala: Supporting people living with HIV. People living with HIV have been given the gift of life through antiretroviral drugs. But the drug therapy's effectiveness depends on patients' access to adequate nutrition. This funding will help approximately 1,000 people living with HIV to improve their health and adhere to their treatment by providing additional food and subsidizing the cost of transportation from their communities to the hospital for their monthly medical appointments.
  • Burkina Faso: Providing seeds and fertilizer to increase rice production. In June, CRS began providing rice farmers with fertilizer and better seed varieties that will increase production and subsequently farmers' incomes. CRS and our partners will also support farmers in marketing their rice.
  • Moldova: Distributing food to assist flood victims. CRS and Caritas Moldova are carrying out an emergency response to aid victims of the worst flooding in decades, which has left thousands of people homeless. Hundreds of towns and villages in Moldova are without water or electricity. This is exacerbating the hardship in an area that was already dealing with sharp increases in the price of food.

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, please visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org

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