Famine in Africa:

Improving U.S. Response Time for Emergency Relief

NSIAD-86-56: Published: Apr 3, 1986. Publicly Released: Apr 3, 1986.

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GAO commented on the time it took federal agencies to approve emergency food requests, obtain the commodities, and start loading them for shipment to African countries during the 1985 emergency.

GAO found that: (1) in 1985 it took an average of 110 days to approve emergency food program requests, obtain commodities, and arrange shipping, which was somewhat less than the time required in 1984; (2) requests were approved considerably more quickly in 1985; and (3) commodities were obtained in about the same amount of time in both years but, in 1985, they remained at U.S. ports considerably longer before shipment. GAO also found that: (1) February and March 1985 approvals averaged 21 days, compared with about 2 months for 1984; (2) commodities were obtained in about 58 days during both years; and (3) in 1985, commodities waited for loading and shipment an average of 31 days compared with an average of 14 days in 1984. Although the African drought and the demand for emergency food aid appear to have lessened, GAO believes that: (1) the Agency for International Development (AID) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) should continue to give priority attention to seeking and testing ways to shorten the time for obtaining and shipping emergency program commodities; and (2) such efforts could be facilitated by more systematic coordination and collaboration with the private voluntary and industry organizations involved in the process.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Food for Peace Coordinator, AID, will work with USDA to continue to seek ways to ensure that emergency food shipments arrive promptly overseas to disaster areas and famine stricken countries. It will continue to review potential changes in the procurement and shipping process in order to effect shortened delivery time at reasonable costs.

    Recommendation: The Assistant Administrator, AID, should ensure that appropriate attention continues to be given to finding ways to shorten the timeframe for procuring and shipping emergency food commodities to famine-stricken countries. One way to accomplish this may be the assignment of specific responsibility to an agency official at a sufficiently high level to generate the necessary cooperation and support. This official could obtain the views of government, private organization, and industry officials and monitor the testing and implementation of measures to shorten the time required to provide emergency commodities.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development


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