May 12, 2022

USAID chief Samantha Power urges Congress to address Ukraine’s ‘desperate need’ for aid

Washington— Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), called on Congress to quickly approve President Biden’s decision request for an additional $33 billion on security, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, warning that parts of the country are in “desperate need” of aid.

In an interview with “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Power said previous additional Congressional funding was being used to meet humanitarian needs in Ukraine, where the conflict with Russia could push millions into poverty and create a global food crisis.

“There are large swathes of Ukraine that were recently liberated by Ukrainian forces, where there is a desperate need, from mine clearance to trauma kits to food aid, since the markets are not back up and running,” Power told “Face the Nation.” “And so that aid is flowing. And it’s also flowing to third countries that are feeling these huge cascading effects of Putin’s war, like skyrocketing food prices, like dwindling supplies of fertilizers, wheat, in cereals.”

While the Biden administration has used money already approved by Congress to send weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as it continues to defend itself against Russia, Power said the burn rate is “very, very high as prices skyrocket” in Ukraine and elsewhere.

“That’s why this supplement is so important,” she said. “It involves both humanitarian assistance, $3 billion in humanitarian assistance to meet these global needs, which are acute malnutrition needs at the famine level. And that includes very significant direct budget support for the government Ukrainian, because what we want to ensure is that the government can continue to provide services to its people.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, she continued, would like to see the Ukrainian government go bankrupt and not be able to meet the needs of its people.

“It would weaken Ukrainian solidarity, and Putin wants nothing more, of course, than to strengthen his bargaining power here as he exerts both military pressure and financial pressure,” Power said. “We can’t let that happen.”

Mr Biden on Thursday asked for the additional $33 billion for Ukraine, most of which would go to additional military and security assistance for the country and its Eastern European allies. The president’s request also included $8.5 billion in economic aid to help Kyiv maintain government functions, while $3 billion in humanitarian aid would support resources needed to meet global food security needs.

The president said $3.5 billion in drawdown authority for Ukraine in a bipartisan omnibus spending package passed by Congress in March was nearly exhausted, underscoring the need for lawmakers to quickly approve more funding .

Power said the security aid has been “the means by which the Ukrainians have been able to fight back and hang on for as long as they have.”

“We have exerted all kinds of diplomatic pressure on countries that have retained their influence with Putin,” she said. “You know, everything from Turkey to Israel to India to China. And Putin doesn’t care and defies the will of the world to allow civilians to be evacuated, to allow food and medicine to get in there. And it’s a travesty.”

In the more than two months since Russia invaded Ukraine, its army has suffered many setbacks, including failing to take control of kyiv. But the war shifted to a new phase last month, with Putin’s forces concentrating their efforts in eastern Ukraine.

Around 100,000 people are believed to be stranded in Mariupol, a port city in southeastern Ukraine, and Power said aid groups have been unable to get food into the city. But USAID is “indirectly” on the ground helping human rights activists, journalists and others in Ukraine.

“We are sort of transforming our previous programming, which was very extensive throughout Ukraine, into programming suitable for this moment thanks to our Ukrainian partners who work inside Ukraine,” she said. . “We are very much looking forward to returning to Ukraine, to being able to see this work up close and again being able to channel, for example, the additional new funding that we hope will reach partners who urgently need it.”