Aid groups: Biden’s $33B for Ukraine skimps on humanitarian needs


It’s not unusual for aid organizations to want more funding, but officials with the groups say their current concerns are driven by atypical circumstances: The war itself is between two important economies, and it is spurring hikes in prices of food, fuel and other items, making aid groups’ work more expensive to carry out all over the world.

Ukraine and Russia, for example, have both been leading producers of wheat, corn and other staples. The fighting in Ukraine, coupled with international sanctions on Russia, has disrupted such supplies, spiked prices and led some countries to limit their food exports.

The cost of fuel is going up, too, given Russia’s role in the energy markets, affecting aid groups’ ability to transport humanitarian supplies. All of that is on top of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has been disrupting global supply chains for some two years now.

“Humanitarian organizations are being asked to respond to more needs with resources that are buying less,” said Kate Phillips-Barrasso, vice president for global policy and advocacy for Mercy Corps, one of the groups drafting the letter. “The humanitarian assistance levels requested by the administration are simply not enough to respond to this perfect storm.”

Mercy Corps is on the ground in Ukraine, Romania and Poland, according to its website, and its work includes steering funding to local organizations “who know their community needs best.”

The aid organizations have at least two sympathetic ears in Congress.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that much of the Biden administration’s request, while important, had a medium to long-term view, and that his office is working on ways to “boldly increase the rapid humanitarian funding needed to mobilize live-saving food assistance efforts swiftly.”

A spokesperson said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who is close to Biden, “will try to use every tactic to ensure we’re prepared to address the scope of the current crisis, whether by stretching our food aid dollars further by cutting red tape and waiving cargo preference requirements, or increasing food aid spending levels in upcoming supplementals.”

Coons is also involved in a new, bipartisan legislative effort to make it easier for the United States to deliver food aid needed as a result of the Russian invasion.

Biden administration officials did not immediately offer comment for this story.

More than 5.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia’s full-on invasion began on Feb. 24, while millions more are displaced within Ukraine. Many Ukrainians have sought refuge in nearby nations such as Poland, but some have reached the United States or at least made it to the U.S.-Mexico border. The arrival of refugees has strained infrastructures in many host nations.

In documents laying out its $33 billion funding request to Congress, the White House says $3 billion is meant for humanitarian needs in Ukraine and beyond. That figure includes funding for food support and medical supplies. But it also covers anticipated needs such as resources for U.S. school districts to support Ukrainians arriving in America.

Mercy Corps and other groups say the funding request’s real figure for traditional humanitarian assistance — such as food — is less than $2 billion. The $5 billion they seek would cover such immediate needs in Ukraine and places elsewhere that are feeling the knock-on effects of the war.

Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Yemen, where wars have left many starving, need food aid in particular, but the work of humanitarian organizations in such places also has been affected by price hikes and shortages of goods spurred by Russia’s invasion.

In a statement criticizing the Biden administration’s funding request as “not nearly enough,” aid group Save the Children said Congress should “provide at least $5 billion for emergency global food security funding.”

The International Rescue Committee echoed many of the concerns, pointing out that droughts in places like the Horn of Africa are adding to the overall humanitarian crisis. In a statement, Amanda Catanzano, IRC’s senior policy and advocacy director, urged Congress to “build on the administration’s request.”

The fighting in Ukraine has largely shifted to the country’s east and south, especially the Donbas region. But Russian airstrikes still occasionally hit targets elsewhere in Ukraine, including railway stations, which can affect the transport of food and other aid.

The International Committee of the Red Cross noted that the people now trapped in Donbas often are the “most vulnerable” — ones who couldn’t afford to leave earlier, for instance. The infrastructure that has supported them is now crumbling under bombardment.

“Local supply chains have broken down and in places where fighting is intense, health care facilities are struggling to cope with the influx of patients,” the ICRC said in a statement.


Soruce : https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/biden-33b-ukraine-skimps-humanitarian-needs-00029382

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