On Africa Day, Celebrating U.S.-Africa Partnership and Cooperation
Many Americans do not realize that over half of food aid globally comes from the U.S., making the Midwest not just the breadbasket of our nation but the breadbasket of the world. At USGLC’s inaugural 2021 Heartland Summit, we asked local, national, and international leaders what America’s investments in agriculture and international affairs programs to feed the hungry were worth. Their answer? Everything.
For some time now, the global development community has known we will not meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of “Zero Hunger” by 2030. Last year, in fact, we witnessed a spike in world hunger that was larger than any increase of the past 20 years. Our struggle to achieve the SDGs comes as little surprise, as this September marks a year and a half that the U.S. has battled the COVID-19 pandemic and its sweeping impacts. Today it is estimated that 660 million people worldwide may face hunger in 2030, 30 million more people than if the pandemic had not occurred. Women also face disproportionate risks, with food insecurity being 10 percent higher among women than men in 2020, up from 6 percent in 2019.
As the United States and the world respond to the Taliban takeover and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, many – including members of Congress – have expressed concern for the fate of women and girls, warning about risks to progress in health and education over the past 20 years.
The Mastercard Foundation’s Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative is committing to a $1.3 billion partnership with the Africa Center for Disease Control (Africa CDC) to address the pressing needs of COVID-19 on the continent of Africa. As many countries in the West start to reach over 50 percent of their populations receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, Africa lags. In fact, the continent reached an all-time high of 43,000 daily new infections in late July and only 3.7% of the population have received at least one COVID vaccine dose. The large disparity in vaccination rates is alarming, as Africa remains extremely vulnerable to the devastating effects of the virus.
Now that the last American troops have left Afghanistan, the Biden Administration, Congress, and the American people begin to grapple with both the horror and devastation witnessed over the past three weeks in Afghanistan and the continuing security challenges posed by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Though the American operation over the last several weeks was successful in evacuating over 123,000 individuals, there remain over 100 Americans and thousands of vulnerable Afghans left in Afghanistan. As the country mourns the death of 170 individuals – including 13 U.S. service men and women – killed in the terror attack in Kabul last week, there remains an urgent need to protect the individuals left behind.
Over the past two weeks, the world has watched the unfolding chaos in Afghanistan with mounting horror; horror that turned into terror yesterday with the deadly attack on the Kabul airport. There will be plenty of time for Monday morning quarterbacking later, but for our citizens, partners and allies in Afghanistan, the clock is ticking. We must focus on the immediate steps to safely evacuate those who want to leave and protect those who stay from Taliban reprisal. To accomplish this mission will take the combined efforts of our public and private sectors.
The world has witnessed the significant and tragic loss of more than 3 million people due COVID-19 over the past year. What hasn’t made headlines is the more than 3 million children who have died from malnutrition during that same time, and the tens of millions more who will face lifelong consequences after suffering from malnutrition during critical periods of their growth. Now, experts predict that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause up to a 50% rise in severe malnutrition — 10,000 more child deaths each month as a result of pandemic-related disruptions in essential services.
The fight against human trafficking is one of many global challenges only made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. A report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that “since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, trafficking in persons went even further underground” and “created larger pools of vulnerable persons.”
As the United States and other countries are increasingly vaccinated and reopening their economies, 20 countries across Africa are facing a third wave that could be the “worst yet.” The IMF reports that COVID-19 infections in sub-Saharan Africa are the fastest growing in the world—driven in part by the highly contagious delta variant—and hospitals are already at capacity in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda, highlighting the urgent need for a global response to prevent new variants of the coronavirus from spreading.