Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

81 posts categorized "Food Aid"

Food Aid and Feed the Future: 2 programs, 1 mission

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An African woman farmer. Sarah Rawson/World Food Program USA.

By Alyssa Casey

Bread for the World is excited to see two different international food-security issues being acted upon in Congress - Feed the Future and food-aid reform! The issues are currently in two separate pieces of legislation, but there has been some discussion in Congress about combining them into a broader food security bill.

It is common for people - even members of Congress - to confuse the two issues. As they both move forward, we at Bread want to clarify the differences between these two vital but distinct pillars of food security.

Food Aid
Food-aid programs provide immediate assistance, usually in the form of actual food, but occasionally as cash or vouchers to purchase food. Aid is mostly provided in response to emergencies that immediately disrupt a country’s food supply, such as the recent earthquakes in Nepal and the prolonged crises in Syria and South Sudan.

The largest U.S. food-aid program, Food for Peace, originated in the 1950s following the aftermath of World War II. While largely successful, certain restrictions have remained virtually unchanged since that time. This includes the fact that nearly all food must be bought in the United States and transported mostly (at least 50 percent) on U.S.-flagged ships. With small changes and increased flexibility, this program can feed more people at no extra cost to U.S. taxpayers.

The Food for Peace Reform Act reforms the Food for Peace program by increasing flexibility and avoiding inefficiencies. Allowing more money to be spent purchasing local food is on average 30 percent cheaper and reaches people in need up to two months faster.

Feed the Future
Feed the Future is a much newer initiative, started in 2009 in response to the devastation caused by the spike in global food prices in 2007 and 2008. It assists countries in strengthening their agriculture sector in order to increase farm yields and develop better opportunities for trade and economic growth. Feed the Future integrates many aspects of food security into a smart, inclusive approach.

The program places significant focus on empowering women farmers to improve food security, since the majority of women in developing countries are smallholder farmers. It also integrates nutrition into agriculture so they are not just growing more food, but growing more nutritious food; and implements climate-sensitive agriculture so they are preserving fields and natural resources for future generations.

Feed the Future is currently dependent on the goodwill of Congress for yearly appropriations. The initiative could end in 2016 if it is not made into permanent law. The Global Food Security Act would authorize Feed the Future into legislation, allowing the program to continue beyond the Obama administration.

Why Do We Need Both?
Food aid targets today’s hunger – the immediate needs. Meanwhile, Feed the Future targets tomorrow’s hunger by investing in long-term agricultural solutions so communities are better prepared to deal with persistent hunger. When long-term development gives communities resilience – enables them to bounce back faster, they can rely less on emergency food aid and instead feed themselves. We need both programs to address the hunger of today and tomorrow.

Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care. 

Registration is free but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

Alyssa Casey is government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

The Power of the Phone Call

PhoneBy Jon Gromek

Making a call to Congress can be powerful. It is how you can make your voice heard on important issues like ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill.

We need you to speak up on Tuesday, May 5 and urge Congress to protect the nutrition programs that give hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive. Call (800) 826-3688 and ask for the office or your senators and representative and tell them to protect child nutrition programs by reauthorizing the child nutrition bill.

If you think making a call to Congress can’t make a difference, think again. About a year ago, I got an email late in the evening from my Bread for the World government relations’ colleagues. As is often the case in Congress, an important vote was scheduled last minute in the Senate Appropriations Committee that would provide $35 million for food aid and help feed an additional 200,000 people in need. 

The problem? The vote was set for 10 a.m. the following morning and would most likely fail. We needed our Bread members to make calls to their senators and representative no later than 9 a.m.!

Knowing it was a long shot, especially so late in the day, I nevertheless reached out to some of our most ardent members and activists in Indiana and asked them to contact Sen. Dan Coats (R- Ind.) who happened to be a critical vote. Good news slowly started trickling into my inbox the next morning. Several members committed to make calls before they went to work and followed up with emails. They learned that the senator was actually going to be absent from the vote but with some gentle encouragement and some timely back and forth between Senate staff over email, and phone, they convinced him to cast a yea vote by proxy. 

The vote passed by 16-14, with the senator casting a critical swing vote. A handful of calls one sleepy morning made the difference in the life of 200,000 people in need. Later that day, I got an email from one of the brave few who took a few precious minutes of his early morning to make those calls.  “When I got your note last night I thought ‘I don't have time for this,’ he admitted.  “God is very good. To get this result is great.”

In the coming weeks, members of Congress will begin the serious work of reauthorizing our federal child nutrition programs, including a hearing in the Senate scheduled for Thursday, May 7, at 10 a.m. EDT. Lawmakers will hold in their hands the lives and future well-being of children across the country who depend on the nutritious food they get from services like school meal programs and the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) program. One in five children in the U.S. lives in households that struggle to put food on the table. In a country such as ours that is unacceptable.

We need you to speak up on Tuesday, May 5 and urge Congress to protect the nutrition programs that give hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive. Call (800) 826-3688 and ask for the office or your senators and representative and tell them to protect child nutrition programs by reauthorizing the child nutrition bill.

Jon Gromek is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

This is Where Food-Aid Reform Matters

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Earthquake destruction in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Photo: Natalie Hawwa / USAID


By Ryan Quinn

Last week’s earthquake in Nepal is one situation where U.S. food aid is at work. In crises like that, as well as in the daily grind of poverty, food aid from our federal government is keeping hunger at bay. But U.S. food-aid programs can do better, and Congress needs to hear that from you.

Email your U.S. senators today, and urge them to cosponsor S. 525, the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015.

The good news is that Congress has already been paying attention to this issue, and food-aid reform is moving forward. This is thanks to the continued efforts of activists like you. This month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the first-ever hearing on the importance of food aid reform.

At the hearing, witnesses testified on how reforms to the government’s food-aid programs would improve their ability to reach more people in need and at less cost to taxpayers.

Last year, Bread for the World members won significant victories in food-aid reform. The Food for Peace Reform Act would build on those individual successes and permanently reform U.S. food aid laws.

Help us take this huge step toward ending hunger. Email your U.S. senators today.

Long ago, God provided by raining manna from heaven for the Israelites (Exodus 16). Help us follow God’s example in our day and better nourish people who are hungry around the world.

Ryan Quinn is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World

SNAP Safe For Now, But Automatic Cuts Loom in Budget

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The joint budget resolution for the 2016 fiscal year includes deep cuts to anti-hunger programs.  (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)

By Robin Stephenson

The House and Senate are close to finalizing a deal for the overall parameters of the 2016 fiscal year budget. The joint budget resolution, with deep cuts to anti-hunger programs, could be ratified by votes in the House and Senate this week.

“It’s a budget that fails to prioritize the most vulnerable, but there is a silver lining:  Thanks to our advocates, the joint resolution does not include reconciliation instructions to the agriculture committees,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World.

In the final compromise, instructions were not included that would have put SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) directly on the chopping block.

“This is good news,” said Kegan. “It postpones our fight to protect SNAP. SNAP is always vulnerable and continues to have a target on its back, but this gives us some breathing room.” On the other hand, reconciliation instructions still leave Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, and the child tax credit potentially at risk.

However, given that 69 percent of the cuts put low-income people at risk, Kegan warns there is still much work to do. “The decisions of what programs get funded and what programs get cut is part of a complex process. There will be a few key opportunities and threats over the next five months in particular,” she said.

A budget resolution sets the top-line numbers for annually appropriated programs – the overall size of the pie that is then sliced up in what is called the appropriation process. Those slices fund individual programs administered through the federal government. Because the budget was balanced by cuts exclusively and not through revenue, the slices are thin. Making matter worse, unless Congress acts, the slices will shrink even more because of a process called sequestration.

Sequestration was offered as a stick during 2011 budget negotiations. In 2011, negotiators were given a choice: They could decide where to enact entitlement cuts and raise revenue or accept additional cuts that shrink the annual appropriations budget. The group of lawmakers, dubbed the Super Committee, failed to compromise. That result triggered the draconian policy to shackle spending even more.  

Since then, Congress and the Obama administration enacted moderate and temporary measures that eased the impact of the cuts.  Lawmakers must enact measures soon that would again ease cuts that affect anti-hunger programs like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The domestic nutrition program, which is already stretched to meet unprecedented need, provides funding for food banks to purchase nutritious foods and to help transport and deliver that food to Americans in need.

“Sequestration is unacceptable and unsustainable. It is a decision that can be changed, if,” Kegan stressed, “Congress makes it a priority. But they have to hear from their constituents.”

There are several programs under the jurisdiction of the agricultural committee that are critical in our efforts to end hunger, but would be subject to a sequestration squeeze. The WIC program supports nutrition for children from low-income families so they grow healthy but would lose vital funding if the automatic cuts are not removed. The dollars that fund food aid and increase our ability to buy food closer to disasters like Nepal would be in jeopardy if sequestration goes into effect.  And the poverty-assistance programs like low-income housing assistance and Head Start would also be at risk.

Bread members are urged to tell their members of Congress to enact measures that will remove sequestration from the budget and develop a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Improving Nutrition is Essential to Ending Global Hunger

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A Ugandan family shares a meal together. Kendra Rinas for Bread for the World.

Editor's note: This article first appeared on the World Food Program USA website. It was co-written by staff members from Bread for the World Institute and World Food Program USA.

By Scott Bleggi and Allan Jury

“Good nutrition is the bedrock of human well-being.” This compelling truth opens the 2014 Global Nutrition Report.

For young children, good nutrition enables the body to grow and develop to its full potential. Studies show that well-nourished children are more likely to succeed in the classroom and earn higher wages as adults than their malnourished peers.  

This is why the Roadmap to End Global Hunger’s 2015 Policy Brief identifies nutrition as one the four main pillars of an effective U.S. strategy to build global food security. 

It is particularly important to focus on good nutrition during the first 1,000 days, a window of opportunity between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. The negative effects of poor nutrition during the 1,000 days are irreversible, while getting the right nutrients at this time produces lasting benefits in both mental and physical development. 

Spending on nutrition support for mothers and young children is a proven investment. In fact, recent analysis shows that for every $1 invested in improving nutrition, $16 is returned to the economy through improved worker productivity and lower health care costs. 

U.S. leadership is essential for maintaining international political will and adequate funding to reduce global malnutrition. Malnutrition has many causes and effective nutrition programming is needed to address each of these causes:

  • We need better nutrition education for expectant and new mothers, including the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to age six months. 
  • We need to support programs that increase the availability of nutritious foods, especially fortified foods and nutrition supplements for pregnant women and children 6-24 months. 
  • We need to help communities gain access to clean water and adequate sanitation to reduce the risk of diseases that rob the body of its ability to absorb vital nutrients.

When the world acts to address malnutrition, the results are more than just impressive economic statistics. With WFP’s help, millions of mothers worldwide are witnessing their children grow and prosper.  

Take Khourn Kom, a young mother who lives with her family in a two-room house in rural Cambodia. Throughout her pregnancy and her baby’s first six months, Kom received monthly distributions of Super Cereal from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). When her child turned seven months old, WFP began providing a different product Super Cereal Plus, which responds to the unique nutritional needs of children 6-23 months.

"This food is good for my son,” Kom told WFP staffers in the field, adding that she now feels confident her son will grow into a strong, healthy boy.

As the 2014 Global Nutrition report points out, the well-being of all people begins with good nutrition: “Without good nutrition, people’s lives and livelihoods are built on quicksand.”  

Let’s advocate together for a smarter approach to global nutrition, along with robust levels of funding that can turn quicksand into a rock-solid foundation for the future health and success of malnourished children everywhere.

The Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567) was recently reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This smart approach recognizes that, in order to end hunger, we don't just need to grow more food through building strong agriculture systems. We need quality, nutritious food as well.

Call or email your U.S. representative today. Urge your U.S. representative to co-sponsor The Global Food Security Act.

Scott Bleggi is senior international policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute, where he supports the organization's larger advocacy efforts to end hunger and poverty, with a focus on maternal and child nutrition policies and programs in U.S. government developmental assistance.

Allan Jury is senior advisor at World Food Program USA, where he works with lawmakers and advocates to shape U.S. food and agriculture policies. Before joining WFP USA in 2013, he worked as the director of the U.S. relations office for the United Nations World Food Program after spending 25 years abroad working for the U.S. Department of State.

Building the 2016 Federal Budget: Round 1

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Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.


By Bread Staff

Before Congress left for its spring break, the House and Senate debated and passed their budget resolutions. The House resolution passed 228-199. The Senate resolution passed 52-46. When members of Congress return to Washington, the two chambers will iron out the differences and pass a budget for fiscal year 2016.

Every year, Bread for the World follows the federal budget process to ensure Congress adequately funds programs that provide hope and opportunity to people struggling with hunger and poverty.

This year, Bread is escalating its work on the budget. Unlike the past few years, one party now controls both the House and the Senate. This makes it significantly easier for Congress to cut anti-hunger programs.

Details of the Budget Proposals

Both the House and Senate sought to balance the budget within the next 10 years. They did so without raising taxes, touching Social Security, making any big changes to Medicare within the next decade, or cutting the defense budget. They actually increased funding for defense in some cases. So where did the trillions of dollars in cuts come from? Sixty-nine percent of the cuts in both budgets would be placed on the backs of low-income people.

In some cases, the budgets were clear about their vision for how to accomplish those savings. The House budget cut $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposed cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Both budgets also allowed the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit to expire. Those improvements have kept 16 million people from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Both budgets continued the additional cuts of sequestration, the automatic cuts Congress agreed to in 2011. These cuts are lasting and severe.

The House Budget proposal cut yearly non-defense appropriated spending by another approximately $759 billion on top of these sequestration cuts. By 2025, total funding for these programs (which includes foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, and many other programs) would be at least 33 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

The Senate budget proposal cuts yearly non-defense spending by another $236 billion on top sequestration. By 2025, total funding for these programs would be at least 24 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

This puts even greater strain and heightens competition for every dollar, threatening funding for international foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, low-income housing assistance, emergency food aid, and many other programs. 

Review of the Sequestration Agreements

Back in 2011, when Congress passed the law that established the sequestration cuts, it made an agreement. It was that automatic sequestration cuts would treat defense and non-defense spending equally.

During the committee mark-ups and floor debates, division emerged. Defense hawks protested the lower spending levels from sequestration. Ultimately, both chambers boosted defense spending by $96 billion in a special account that is not subject to the sequestration cuts or spending limit (known as Overseas Contingency Operations). However, a growing number of members of Congress are speaking out against the sequestration cuts, urging Congress to look to other areas in the budget, including revenues and other spending programs.

During the budget debates in late March, Bread stepped up its advocacy efforts, and our members responded. In particular, we urged the Senate to oppose several amendments. In the end, those amendments were either defeated or pulled before they could even get a vote.

Even though the House budget made horrendous cuts to programs that help people move out of poverty and put food on the table, there was a silver lining. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) got an entire section on food-aid reform included. This section: 1) asserted that cargo preference, monetization, and using only food commodities (practices in providing food aid that Bread believes are inefficient or harmful) “fails to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,” and 2) endorsed the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This act would make many of the reforms that Bread has been seeking since last year’s Offering of Letters: Food-Aid Reform.

Round 2 and Beyond

When Congress returns after its two-week recess, it will conference the two budget resolutions. Bread will be watching closely to see what Congress agrees upon and the exact funding levels they give to specific programs.

We expect the spring and summer to be busy months as congressional committees mark up various budget bills. This could all come down to some important budget negotiations this fall between Congress and the White House.

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources

Swedish Soccer Player Spreads Word About Hunger

By Jennifer Gonzalez

It’s not usual to see a soccer player covered in tattoos. But what about covering your body with the names of 50 people you don’t know?

May sound extreme, but that’s exactly what Swedish soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimović did as part of the 805 Million Names campaign promoting the World Food Program. Ibrahimović, born to a Bosnian father and a Croatian mother, both of whom emigrated to Sweden, revealed the tattoos during a Valentine’s Day match between Paris Saint-German and Caen at Parc des Princes.

The campaign’s aim is to show the world that millions of people are going hungry. The names adorned on the soccer player are all people living with hunger.

At Bread for the World, we know the importance of ending hunger – it’s our life’s work. Today, there are 805 million chronically undernourished people around the world, according to a new policy briefing paper by the Roadmap Coalition, a group of organizations advocating for an end to hunger and malnutrition. Bread for the World Institute is a member of the coalition.

This is unacceptable. The briefing paper provides a roadmap to ending global hunger. The U.S. government’s primary contribution to improving global food security is through the Feed the Future Initiative.

The initiative improves the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, strengthens maternal and child nutrition, and builds capacity for long-term agricultural growth. In fact, seven million small farmers grew more crops and provided nutritious food to 12.5 million children in 2013 alone under the program.

Traditionally, the program has been funded by Congress through annual spending legislation. Last year marked the first time Congress introduced legislation to authorize the program, which has been a long-standing Bread priority.

Unfortunately, the legislation did not pass and the future of this program remains in the balance without official statutory approval by Congress. Congressional champions have indicated a commitment to introduce and pass legislation in 2015.

Bread will continue to work hard to make sure that Feed the Future becomes law in 2015. Continue to read Bread Blog throughout the year for the latest information on how you can help. Learn more: Feed the Future.

 Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

Let's Keep the Momentum on Food-Aid Reform Going This Year

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Indian women and children bundle grain stalks after the harvest. Margaret W. Nea/Bread for the World.

By David Gist, Jon Gromek, and Zach Schmidt

The purpose of U.S. international food aid is to provide food to people who need it, so let’s do it well.

Bread for the World members wrote letters, made phone calls and met with their members of Congress last year as part of the annual Offering of Letters. They urged senators and representatives across the country to reform U.S. food aid so we could help more hungry people overseas and better utilize U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Our efforts paid off. Modest reforms were included in the 2014 farm bill, and as a result of our persistent advocacy, we won important victories that ensure more food aid will reach the people who need it. That’s good news! But more work remains to be done, and as people of faith, we continue to call on Congress to reform U.S. food aid to help our brothers and sisters around the world.

It’s a message that’s worth repeating. Greater flexibility in food-aid policies would allow more food to be purchased closer to where it’s needed, helping millions more people receive life-saving food aid up to two months faster. Not only that, but purchasing food locally means our government helps farmers and their communities around the world become self-sufficient and, therefore, less likely to need U.S. aid in the future.

So, more food to more hungry people at no extra cost. Faster delivery. Food that’s more nutritious and culturally appropriate. And local farmers and local economies getting stronger. In the fight against hunger, food-aid reform is a no-brainer. We just need a few more members of Congress to join the movement.

So where are we in 2015? Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading supporter of food-aid reform, recently introduced the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This bill would make the kinds of reforms Bread has been advocating for possible and is a positive sign that Congress wants to address food-aid reform this year. We will likely see other approaches to food-aid reform in the coming weeks and months, and Bread policy analysts stand ready to follow these developments closely.

Stay tuned! Your voice is needed as we continue to pray and advocate for food-aid reform and for a world in which everybody has enough to eat.

David Gist, Jon Gromek, and Zach Schmidt are regional organizers at Bread for the World.

 

Rick Steves and the Whirling Dervish

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Rick Steves talks to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), about food-aid reform during the 2014 annual Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Robin Stephenson

Can we turn our faith into action and become conduits of God’s love as leaders in our communities?

Travel writer and Bread for the World member Rick Steves thinks so. Steves talked about the importance of advocacy as an act of faith during the Faith Action Network (FAN) annual fundraising dinner in Seattle, Wash., last November.

Advocacy goes beyond models of charity. For Steves, it is the implementation of God’s love to address structural poverty. It is an extension of stewardship that considers community and neighbor. "We are so richly blessed," Steves said. "I think if we are honest with our faith, we take that stewardship seriously."

Steves used the image of a Whirling Dervish to show how people of faith can be tools of God.

“He plants one foot in community - his home - and his other foot goes around the world, acknowledging the beautiful diversity of God’s great creation," Steves said. "He raises one hand up to God to accept the love of his maker, the other hand, like the spout of a tea kettle, goes down and showers God’s love on his great creation as he whirls - one foot in his home with his loved one, the other celebrating the diversity in his community.”

Steves’ worldview is shaped by his faith and travel. He said that one of the reasons he values travel is that he can view his own country from a distance but also see the different ways communities across the globe deal with similar challenges. “We can learn from other people's experiences, we can share notes,” he said.

Whirling_DervishesSteves’ book, Travel as a Political Act explores how travel can connect people and engender a mutual understanding. Travel opens our eyes because it exposes the similarities and diversities of various approaches to living. Sometimes what we see is gross inequality. But for Steves, that pushes him to engage his elected officials - the leaders who make policies that affect vulnerable people around the world.

Last year, Steves spoke out about a policy provision in a Coast Guard Reauthorization bill that would have increased the percentage of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels from 50 to 75 percent. If passed, it would have reduced the reach of food-aid programs by 2 million people annually. Steves sees short-term profit over feeding hungry people as a problem of perspective.

“Sure, we have our economic challenges,” Steves wrote in The Seattle Times last June. “But 90 percent of humanity would love to have our crisis. Half of humanity is struggling to survive on $2 a day. When you travel, you understand that’s a real crisis.”

By speaking up in your communities and with your elected officials, advocates like you and Rick Steves, helped put a stop to the harmful provision. God’s love for humanity channeled through God’s people triumphed. That is faith in action!

A Whirling Dervish, perpetually in motion and radiating God’s love and promise out to the world, is a nice metaphor for what we do as faithful advocates. By urging our elected officials to craft programs and policies that celebrate human diversity, while acknowledging that we are one people tied together by God’s love, we most certainly do turn our faith into action.

Watch the video of Rick Steves' presentation on the Rick Steves' Europe Blog.

As the 114th Congress begins its work, we’ll need your help to ensure that food-aid reform is a priority. Bread will continue to work on this issue and urge Congress to pass legislation that helps those who need food the most to get it. Learn more: U.S. Food-Aid Reform.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Photo inset: Whirling Dervishes. Tomas Maltby/Wikimedia Commons.

Refugees in Jordan Face Increasing Hardship

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Syrian refugees receiving U.K.-funded food vouchers in Amman, Jordan through the U.N. World Food Program. Russell Watkins/U.K. Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons.

By Jacob Chew

Jordan is currently host to 620,000 of the 3.8 million Syrians who have sought refuge from the ongoing conflict in the country. This is the largest ever refugee population received by Jordan, a developing country with limited economic resources and a high unemployment rate.

In January, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a report highlighting the growing challenges faced by the more than 520,000 Syrian refugees residing outside UNHCR camps in Jordan.  “Living in the Shadows: Jordan Home Visits Report 2014” found that these refugees will face increasing difficulty in sustaining themselves as the four-year civil war in Syria continues unabated into 2015.

The UNHCR report highlighted the following:

Two-thirds of Syrian refugees live below the Jordanian poverty line of U.S. $96 per month. Female-headed households face higher levels of poverty than male-headed households.

•Many Syrian families spend an average of 1.6 times their income in order to meet their needs. In order to do so, they have had to rely on their savings, sell their jewelry, borrow money from family and friends, and even pull their children out of schools in order to sustain themselves. Such strategies are unsustainable in the long term.

One in ten refugee families live in informal housing such as tents, caravans, basements, and rooftops. Almost half (47 percent) of refugee households are in living conditions regarded as bad or urgent, while 40 percent live with poor sanitary conditions.

•The Jordan government has issued most refugees with a service card that provides them with free access to public services and education. However, the influx of refugees has stretched existing public infrastructure to the seams. Overcrowded schools coupled with financial constraints resulted in only 53 percent of Syrian refugee children enrolled in school in 2014.

•Currently, UNHCR provides cash assistance to 14 percent of Syrian refugees living outside the camps. This has reduced the number of beneficiaries below the program’s poverty threshold by 20 percent. However, lack of international funding has prevented it from scaling up this program.

With no resolution to the Syrian conflict in sight and a lack of financial support for UNHCR’s work, we can expect levels of hunger and poverty among refugees to increase in the immediate future.

In the long term, competition for resources could increase tension between refugees and host communities. Continuing uncertainty and high school dropout rates could lead to the emergence of a lost generation of Syrians living in despair, which could affect peace and stability in the region.

Bread for the World members are urged to contact their members of Congress and ask them to increase funding for poverty-focused development accounts, including those that fund programs to alleviate poverty and hunger among Syrian refugees in Jordan and refugees elsewhere, and also urge Congress to pass important reforms to the food-aid system. With common sense reforms to make food-aid programs more flexible, efficient and effective, these programs could reach millions more people in Jordan and around the world.

Jacob Chew is an intern in the government relations department at Bread for the World.

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