The tragedy of Ethiopia is that the starvation of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children could be avoided. We Americans have the resources, the will and the agenda to substantially relieve the suffering. Unfortunately our resources and intentions are not enough. The Ethiopians must also have the will to end their suffering.
Television has brought directly into American homes the realities of the terrible famine in Africa. The outpouring of American generosity, public and private, exceeds modern precedent. Almost $90 million has been donated by the public to the organizations that are working to feed the millions who have been forced off their land and are near starvation. The U.S. government has been at the forefront of the international response. In this fiscal year alone, the United States has provided more than $200 million in food, over one million tons. This is half the worldwide contribution.
The U.S. motto has been, "A hungry child knows no politics." Our emergency aid will go anywhere there is hunger, regardless of our relationship with the government in question. Ethiopia, where 7 million are affected, is the largest recipient of our emergency aid to Africa, despite the Marxist character of its government.
But unfortunately, politics -- and war -- will not leave the hungry alone. We are thus faced with one of the great dilemmas of this African tragedy: over 2 million people in northern Ethiopia are threatened with starvation but cannot be reached with emergency supplies. The civil war continues in this part of Ethiopia and those involved are not prepared to set differences aside or permit free passage of food to famine victims.
Although the Ethiopian government claims control over thisarea, it will not allow humanitarian agencies unrestricted passage. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government protests efforts to reach these people from across the Sudan border, charging violation of its sovereignty and support to rebel armies. For their part, rebel forces have attacked relief shipments and closed government feeding centers, sometimes forcing the people under their control to walk hundreds of miles to refugee camps in Sudan rather than seek relief in government-run camps closer by.
We remain terribly concerned with the threatened starvation of over 2 million people and determined to do whatever we can to avoid it. We believe the international community cannot turn from this problem. If that means being charged with "political" motives for humanitarian actions, so be it. We must do everything in our power to see the hungry fed.
We are trying to address the problem. We are using every form of persuasion to encourage the Ethiopian government to open access to these areas. We are prepared to help with transport costs as well as food; to provide neutral monitors to ensure that food goes to hungry families, not soldiers; to mobilize private or international organizations to distribute the food if that is more acceptable -- whatever is necessary to get politics out of the way of food flowing to famine victims. We are enlisting the help of the United Nations and of countries everywhere to overcome these barriers.
We will continue to support the humanitarian organizations that can get food into these areas from Sudan. Some food is getting through, but it is not enough. We know the Ethiopian government objects -- it recently seized Australian and German food bound for the same cross-border feeding program. The problem can only be resolved when all parties to the conflict agree to free and safe passage of food through Ethiopia.
We must not be spectators. We must do all that is feasible to provide relief to the thousads who are suffering intolerable conditions and facing certain starvation. It is essential that the international community work together using every means at its disposal to break down these barriers. Unless that happens, hundreds of thousands will surely die.