A bill in Congress seeks slightly more than $1 billion to help prevent further starvation.

Efforts to aid Africa’s famine victims may tax U.S. private and public sources to their limits and still fall short of the overwhelming need for food. The virtual absence of food production in drought-stricken areas is matched by intractable transportation problems and poor government relations between Western nations and Marxist states such as Ethiopia.

Demand already has outstripped the U.S. government’s budgeted cash supply for natural disaster relief. “All available worldwide emergency funds for fiscal 1985 have been spent,” said Corinne Whitaker of Bread for the World (BFW), a Washington-based lobby. “It is critical that more resources be made available, both in food aid and non-food aid such as transportation, medicine, and agricultural recovery projects.”

Drawing on the surplus grain it buys from American farmers, the government has pledged 50,000 metric tons to Ethiopia alone, where the largest mass of starving people live. Half of the $200 million spent by the U.S. government for emergency aid has gone to Ethiopia, where an estimated 7.75 million people survive on the brink of starvation.

Another 550,000 tons are pledged for distribution by private organizations, in an agreement negotiated with the Ethiopian government by World Vision International president Tom Houston and representatives of Catholic and Lutheran relief agencies. Private initiatives are coordinated by Interaction, a coalition of some 120 agencies, many of which are church related.

Finding new sources of money is an urgent task facing both the government and private-sector groups involved in famine relief. A bill requesting slightly more than $1 billion has been ...

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