WASHINGTON – President Bush on Monday ordered the release of $200 million in emergency aid to help nations where surging food prices have deepened hunger woes and sparked violent protests.
The move comes one day after the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, called on the international community to act urgently in helping needy people and "put our money where our mouth is." Haiti, Egypt and the Philippines are among the countries facing civil unrest because of food prices and shortages.
Bush directed Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer to draw down an estimated $200 million from a food reserve known as the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said the move will help address the impact of rising commodity prices on U.S. emergency food aid programs, and help meet the unanticipated food needs of countries in Africa and elsewhere.
Bush discussed the hunger problem at length with his Cabinet at the White House on Monday.
Perino said Bush was deeply concerned about the mounting crisis, and that he believes developed countries have a responsibility to help those in need.
Beyond short-term aid, Perino said administration officials are debating solutions with lasting impact. "Over the long run, the source problems will need to be identified, the source of where the food is, so that there is a long-term plan in place that helps take care of the world's poor and hungry," she said.
Perino noted the United States already is the largest provider of food aid in the world. The United States delivered more than $2.1 billion of food aid to 78 developing countries in 2007, she said.