In the past two years the number of people living in extreme poverty has grown by 100 million and the number of hungry people has increased by 75 million, according to a report issued in November by the Bread for the World Institute.
The report by the Christian anti-hunger group calls on the U.S. Congress and President-elect Barack Obama to strengthen U.S. foreign assistance programs, making them more effective in fighting global hunger and poverty.
“As we grapple with the economic crisis, we need to pay attention to the damage it’s doing to the world’s poorest people,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of the institute.
The organization’s 19th annual report examines progress that has been made in reducing hunger and poverty worldwide and reducing risks to the poor posed by rising food and fuel prices. It also analyzes successes and failures of U.S. foreign assistance policies and programs across the government—from 12 departments, 25 agencies and close to 60 different government offices.
“It’s imperative that the U.S. government provide, even in these tough times, adequate funding for immediate hunger needs,” said Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services.
Hackett said the government’s foreign assistance goals tended to focus too much on the short-term. Instead, he said, the root causes of poverty must be addressed with reforms.
“The interests of the poor and vulnerable must lie at the door of foreign assistance,” Hackett said.
The report calls for a series of reforms, including elevating global development as a specific goal of U.S. foreign policy, strengthening civilian leadership in U.S. development assistance, and partnering with recipient countries to meet their long-term development goals.
The report also suggests increasing agricultural productivity and raising the earning potential of poor people to gain long-term food security.