Food for Peace Fades to Black

Last Friday marked the final day of the 50-year history of U.S.-provided food aid in India.

The U.S. food aid effort, known officially as the PL 480 Title II Food for Peace program (often called Title II for short), is the longest-running and largest U.S. government international humanitarian assistance program. It has been an important part of international assistance to the poor of India, and Catholic Relief Services has played a major role in carrying it out over these decades. Food aid is ending in India due to the country’s increased economic growth and increased food security.

At the peak of the food aid program, CRS worked with more than 2,500 partner organizations spread over 26 states and five Union territories in India, reaching millions of people. The breadth of CRS work in India supported by food aid included health initiatives for mothers and children; education programs that increased opportunities for disadvantaged children, especially girls, to participate in quality primary education; food assistance for the most vulnerable people, such as the elderly and those suffering from long-term illnesses; agriculture programs designed to strengthen active participation in watershed management; and emergency food assistance after disasters, mainly floods.

The CRS staff in India received a note of appreciation for their years of work last week from Ramesh Babu, an official with the health department of the U.S. Agency for International Development in India:

Today is the last day of the 50 years of Title II program in India. On this day, I thought of writing a few lines to convey my deep sense of appreciation to CRS staff in India and staff in Baltimore for their valuable and untiring support for successful implementation of the Title II program in India. Despite all the odds and difficult situations, CRS ensured that all the commodities imported during the [current food aid program] are optimally and effectively used up to the last gram. I recognize how difficult it is to closeout such a big and old program with no pending actions and major observations. The CRS staff under your leadership, once again demonstrated that they can turn every difficult and challenging situation in their favor as an opportunity to serve the most needy.

CRS faced many challenging situations in the journey of Title II program implementation in India. CRS started the program in barren lands, built it brick-by-brick and penetrated into the vulnerable communities, who are deprived from receiving the government services. The credit goes to the CRS staff in the field, who stood like rock; negotiated and nurtured the partnerships with a big fleet of Counterparts and Operating Partners, built their capacities for quality service delivery by them and through the formal system. I admire the successful efforts of CRS in keeping the diverse group of partners spread across in most states and Union Territories of the country united. CRS and USAID are lucky to have associated with Mother Teresa and Dalai Lama and their organizations in realizing their dreams with Title II food aid.

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