Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

199 posts categorized "Foreign Aid"

Helping Neighbors in Need Is an Act of God


Producing High Quality Seeds (USAID).

We often use the phrase “an act of God” to describe natural catastrophes. Would it not be more appropriate, however, to refer to the work we do to mitigate hunger before and after disaster hits as an act of God? In the United States, we have a set of programs categorized as poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) that is doing just that. When we help our neighbors build resilience against future crises in poor countries, we are acting out God’s compassion for humanity.

Recent reports on climate change indicate we are facing an increase in global food-insecurity, which makes programs that build resilience even more critical. Currently, both chambers of Congress are writing spending bills that determine  fiscal year 2015 funding for foreign assistance. The Senate plan could cut funding by 7 percent from current base funding levels.Such cuts would hinder our ability to continue making progress against worldwide hunger.

In “Morality of preparation,” a piece published in The Hill this week, Rev. John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service, and Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, urge Congress to fund programs at levels comparable to, or higher than, those enacted in the previous year.  They also call funding foreign assistance a moral imperative.

“We don’t believe there is a choice here," they write. "How can we stomach the desperate looks on children’s faces and refuse to help when we know we are able?” McCullough and Beckmann stress that advocates must reach out to Congress and show their support for foreign assistance. “Each of us, citizens and elected representatives, reflect the priorities of this great nation and among the most important is hope and compassion for all God’s children.”

U.S. programs addressing long-term solutions to poverty have been instrumental in making progress against global hunger over the last decade. The reduction in child mortality rates are evidence that smart nutrition investments work. Increases in global literacy rates are a result of injecting aid into primary-school education.

These small investments have huge returns. Increases in a country's literacy rate correlate with increases in its economic productivity. Sixty years ago, South Korea, now an example of the power of effective aid, was one of the world’s poorest countries. U.S. foreign assistance helped South Korea become Asia’s fourth-largest economy, as well as a major consumer of U.S. goods.

In May 2009, a cyclone devastated Bangladesh. In the village of Sutarkhali, Mohammad Mofizul Islam Gazi saw his livelihood disappear when the small plot on which he grew rice to support his family was ruined. “Cyclone Aila nailed the last pin in the coffin,” he tells USAID Frontlines. “There was nothing left.” In 2012, as the village was struggling with malnutrition, a U.S. funded program supplied Gazi and other farmers with a special rice seed that could withstand future cyclones. Today, the community produces 50 percent more rice than before the disaster. 

In urging our members of Congress to fully fund PFDA, we are moving toward the sacred vision of a world where everyone has enough. Helping neighbors escape hunger and poverty – helping when we are able – is a true act of God.

Ryan Budget Threatens International Programs that Save Lives

Refugee_camp_classroom
Children inside a classroom at Za’atri refugee camp, host to tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by conflict, near Mafraq, Jordan. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

By Alyssa Casey

Since the crisis in Syria began more than three years ago, nearly 9.5 million people—almost half of Syria's population—have fled their homes. More than 2.5 million Syrian refugees have relocated to neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Their needs—for shelter, food, medical care, education, and employment opportunities—are great. At this critical time, what Syrians do not need is reduced support and assistance from the international community, including the United States. Unfortunately, under the budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), this would likely be the case.   

Ryan’s fiscal year 2015 budget resolution, released this week, proposes deep cuts to programs that provide relief to those affected by conflict in Syria, and other parts of the world. Ryan’s proposal cuts the International Affairs budget by a devastating 11 percent. As the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition points out, this funding level would mean a 24 percent decrease in the total International Affairs budget since 2010.

We all acknowledge the current tough fiscal environment, but we cannot let the poor and hungry bear the largest burden during these difficult times, as they so often do. As Bread for the World has previously noted, sequestration has already cut funding for life-saving international efforts, such as child and maternal health and international food aid. Now is not the time for additional cuts.

The International Affairs budget funds poverty-focused development assistance programs that provide emergency relief to those affected by conflict and disasters, saving countless lives. Last month, the World Food Program reported that food aid is now reaching previously inaccessible areas of Syria, providing much-needed relief to tens of thousands.  The U.S. Agency for International Development helps fund critical programs that provide immediate needs such as food, water, shelter, and vaccinations to Syrian refugees.  This funding also achieves longer-term goals such as education, psychological care, and job training to help refugees rebuild their lives.

Unfortunately, Syria is not unique. Crisis and conflict continue to fan the flames of hunger and poverty in South Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela, and other countries across the globe. Fortunately, we can help. As a nation, we must continue to offer life-saving assistance, and as individuals, we must continue to urge our members of Congress to support robust funding levels for international humanitarian and poverty-focused development accounts.

At a time when U.S. foreign assistance is saving lives every day, we cannot risk the progress that has been made by abandoning the funding that makes it possible. Rep. Ryan’s budget resolution is not the solution.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations intern at Bread for the World.

A Gem Worth More than $800 Million

Here in Washington, D.C., safely secured in a Smithsonian museum, is the supposedly cursed — but still famous — Hope Diamond, valued as high as $350 million. But today there is a newer gem in the capital city, worth even more. This gem is buried in the thousands of pages and in the trillions of dollars that comprise the fiscal year 2014 federal budget and is a victory for Bread for the World and its members.

Despite gradual cuts to the overall international affairs budget in the last three years, poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) accounts grew in FY 2014 by more than $800 million. In fact, PFDA funding has steadily increased over the past few years. This year, Congress appropriated more than $24.1 billion for PFDA programs, adding $800 million since last year.

The increases come at a time when Congress has been trying to cut the federal budget. We would not have been able to keep a circle of protection – much less increase it – were it not for the persistent advocacy of Bread members and partners.

In general, the dollar amounts for PFDA funding have more than tripled since FY 2000. Despite these increases, the overall PFDA funding by the United States still stands at less than one cent for every dollar the government spends.

Bread measures poverty-focused development assistance by examining the International Affairs Budget of the U.S. government (called the 150 Account). In addition, we include appropriations for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture Departments. They include funding for such programs as the Millennium Challenge Account, the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative, Enterprise for the Americas, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Food for Peace Program, and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program.

Photo: Khato Rana plays with her daughter Rita, 2, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The facility, run by Nepali NGO Rural Women's Development Unity Center (RUWDUC), restores malnourished children back to health. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

#StopTheMyth That the U.S. Sends All Its Money Overseas


Watch Bill Nye, the Science Guy, dispel more poverty myths in this short Gates Foundation video.

By Robin Stephenson

Three facts:

  • The United States does not send "all" of its money overseas.
  • We invest a small amount of our budget in international poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) programs.
  • That investment does not increase poverty in America. 

Programs categorized as poverty-focused development assistance, or PFDA, help alleviate hunger and poverty abroad, and also support trade, national security, and job creation here in the United States.

In the fiscal year 2014 budget spending bill, overall PFDA got a modest boost over last year's funding levels, although some programs saw reductions. The increase is good news, but PFDA remains mired in misunderstanding, where the general public is concerned. PFDA myths must be debunked in order to support continued investments in global hunger and poverty reduction.

One PFDA myth I've previously written about was recently addressed by Joe Cerrell of the Gates Foundation on Devex, in the piece, "It's our responsibility to #stopthemyth on foreign aid." Cerrell, like most anti-hunger advocates, has defended PFDA investment in response to the false belief that we send all our money overseas while America's poor go without. It's simply not true.

Cerrell thinks the myth's persistence is due to public misunderstanding of the size of overseas investment and what it provides. In a recent survey, a large number of Americans said they believe 28 percent of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid, which is a gross inflation of the actual number. PFDA comprises less than one percent of the federal budget, and has a tremendous impact. 

With benchmarks such as the Millennium Development Goals and program design that includes country participation and partnership, more progress was made against hunger and poverty in the 2000s than during any other decade in history. With smart investments, we will continue to see a global exodus from hunger — unless we pit domestic and international investments against one another and reduce PFDA funding.

"Quite simply," Cerrell writes on Devex, "if 1 percent of the budget was redirected back to domestic issues in a donor country, it would only be a drop in the bucket — but invested in the developing world, it is helping to spur historic progress and prosperity."

In our churches and communities, faithful advocates must remove the shroud of misunderstanding surrounding PFDA. A study commissioned by Bread for the World in 2013 makes it clear that ending world hunger is something Americans care about. In fact, 37 percent of Americans think the U.S. government is doing too little to end hunger in developing countries around the world. Only one in five of those polled believe we are doing too much.

“Americans want to help their brothers and sisters end hunger, and become self-sufficient," said Rev. David Beckmann at the time of the study's release. "Congress should embody and reflect this compassionate spirit as it deliberates on our federal budget.”

As we move forward in addressing 2015 funding levels for PFDA, we must focus on development assistance programs in particular. Through faithful advocacy, we can ensure these programs are robustly supported, thereby ensuring thousands of people throughout the world have the opportunity to enjoy a more prosperous future.

Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and senior organizer, Western hub.

 

Investing in Foreign Aid Puts Food on U.S. Tables

Delta Farmer
Produce from 1 in 3 acres on American farms is exported to foreign consumers. Of the top 50 consumer nations of U.S. agricultural products, 43 of those countries have been recipients of foreign assistance (Photo of a farmer in the Mississippi Delta by Todd Post).

By Robin Stephenson

As an anti-hunger advocate, I often hear this sentiment: "We should not be sending all our money overseas when people are hungry here." This statement sets up a false one-or-the-other scenario: the fact is, in proportion to our overall budget, we send very little money overseas to help hungry people. That little bit does a tremendous amount of good— it invests in peace and goodwill, promotes trade and job creation at home and abroad, and saves lives. What that investment doesn’t do is take food off of American tables.

I wasn’t surprised to read about a new Kaiser Poll, mentioned on the WonkBlog last month, reporting that Americans believe that about 28 percent of our budget is spent on foreign aid. I often conduct a similar poll when I speak in churches. The responses I get usually range from 15–50 percent.  Jaws drop in shock when I tell audiences that the international affairs budget comprises about 1 percent of our federal budget, and aid for poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) is half of that.

I asked Bread's international policy analyst, Beth Ann Saracco, how she responds when presented with the "either-or" scenario. “When the argument is made that we must choose between feeding our fellow Americans and our brothers and sisters abroad, clearly we fail as a people morally," she said. "But equally as important, we are choosing short-sighted public policy, as well, which gravely threatens America’s economic and national security interests, both in the short and long term.”

PFDA has helped cut extreme poverty in half over the past decade. But knowing what foreign aid does isn't always enough to deter its detractors from pitting international against domestic investments — a false choice that shows a lack of understanding about the root causes of poverty and hunger. PFDA is an investment that helps the U.S. economy. The best defense against hunger is a good job, and jobs that help put food on American tables are often directly, or indirectly, tied to the global economy.  

Businesses rely on consumers to buy their products, and owners add to their workforce as demand increases. Ninety percent of consumers live outside of the United States, and one in three manufacturing jobs depends on exports. Farmers need foreign consumers—one in three acres of their produce is exported. Of the top 50 consumer nations of American agricultural products, 43 of those countries have been recipients of foreign assistance. Statistics show fifty percent of our domestic exports currently go to developing nations. These numbers show that the vitality of the U.S. job market requires foreign consumers, and foreign assistance helps build a foundation for the development of future trade partners.

Since 2010, foreign aid has been reduced by 19 percent. These cuts to PFDA jeopardize the lives of our brothers and sisters abroad and our economic stability at home. As Congress continues to work on a 2014 budget deal, we must tell our representatives and senators to protect poverty focused foreign assistance for the good of all.

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

A Window of Opportunity

The Power of 1,000 Days

As Congress uses a vote on a continuing resolution as a political football and a possible government shutdown looms, there are important anti-hunger issues at stake. This video, “The Power of a 1,000 Days,” is a reminder of the potential children hold for the future when they are given the opportunity to thrive. We could lose ground on the strides that have been made toward ending global malnutrition if the sequester is not replaced. The partisan conversation will likely continue as Congress debates the debt ceiling in mid-October, so every opportunity to remind our legislators that ending hunger must be part of the debate is critical.

If passed, the continuing resolution would keep the government running through mid-December, but the automatic across-the-board cuts of sequestration would not be replaced. In the next year, sequestration will mean:

  • More than 570,000 children in developing countries will be denied nutritional interventions during their first 1,000 days of development. These interventions save lives and help prevent the irreversible damage caused by malnutrition.
  • Roughly 2 million people around the world will experience reduced or denied access to lifesaving food aid.

The 1,000 days from the start of a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday offer a unique window of opportunity to shape healthier and more prosperous futures. Similarly, we have a window of opportunity that we can use to tell Congress funding food aid must be a priority.

As the video states, “malnutrition robs children of the ability to grow, learn, and thrive.”  Will our members of Congress forget the children in the din of political rhetoric this week? Or will the 870 million malnourished children worldwide who can be helped by simple and small investments in targeted nutrition be remembered?  It’s up to us to remind them.

Use our toll-free number, 800-826-3688, to be connected to the Capitol switchboard, or send an email.

In June, with Concern Worldwide, The Bread for the World Institute co-hosted the event Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition. A report of the summary and highlights in now available online.

Sequestration Threatens Lifesaving Food Aid

Bangladesh
Tohomina Akter attempts to feed her daughter Adia, 17 months, in Char Baria village, Barisal, Bangladesh, on Thursday, April 19, 2012. Tohomina finished 7th grade and hopes she can help educate her daughter to be a doctor. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

“The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:15).

Famine is difficult for Americans to truly understand. Although poverty rates in the United States have surged with the Great Recession, programs like SNAP have helped put food on the table for those who have been hit the hardest. But famine — a perversion of God’s vision for humanity in the midst of global abundance – slowly and painfully withers life in the wake of human and natural disasters. For people who live in the world's poorest countries, the safety net is often weak or nonexistent.

Both the Old and New Testaments show a special concern for the poor; God’s people are called to change the systems that create poverty. Amos 5 tells us that we also are called to respond immediately to the groaning at the gates—an outcry exemplified by hunger. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul understood that the Christian call included responding to the need in Macedonia with a generosity that crossed borders (2 Corinthians 8-9).

Today, that humanitarian assistance often comes in the form of U.S. food aid and programs administered by USDA and USAID. For more than 50 years, U.S. generosity has saved lives. In fiscal year 2010, the United States spent about $1.5 billion on emergency food aid that benefitted about 46.5 million people in poor countries.

In 2011, famine in Somalia led to the death of more than 250,000 people in Southern Somalia, but many survived because of food aid and global generosity. Although rains and lowered food prices have helped, security issues still plague the region and continued vigilance on the part of the international community is vital.  IRIN reports that an estimated 870,000 will need food assistance by December of this year. 

As we have previously reported, the crisis is regional and the Horn of Africa has the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world. Programs targeting the nutritional needs of nursing mothers and infants are working. Last week, the UN reported that Ethiopia has reduced by two-thirds its child mortality rate, which is the rate of infants and children who die before age 5. 

The less than 1 percent of our budget that is invested in poverty-focused development assistance is saving lives and helping us answer our faithful call to love our neighbors, regardless of borders. The investments, however, are being diminished by sequestration, the automatic and indiscriminate budget cuts currently in place. If these cuts aren't replaced by a balanced approach, sequestration will deny nutritional interventions to 57,000 children and deny or reduce food aid to 2 million people. Congress must take action.

Congress is facing some big choices this week—lives are at stake.  Ask your senators and representative to pass a responsible budget that provides robust funding for international poverty-focused development assistance programs and puts an end to sequestration. Use our toll-free number, 800-826-3688, to be connected to the Capitol switchboard, or send an email.

Cuts Cost Lives: Nutrition Funding in Danger

Nepal
Khato Rana plays with her daughter Rita, 2, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The facility, run by Nepali NGO Rural Women's Development Unity Center (RUWDUC), restores malnourished children back to health (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

That four in 10 Nepali children are stunted because of malnutrition is outrageous. We have the knowledge to solve widespread malnutrition — but will we?

The 2013 Offering of Letters video "Malnutrition is Everywhere" shows targeted investments in nutrition work. The short video, shot at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Dhangadhi, Nepal tells a story of hope. Nutrition interventions result in positive outcomes for mothers and their children in the first 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2.

“Within a month or so, you can see the change in a child,"said Pinky Singh Rana, board member at the Rural Women’s Development Unity Center. "You can see the positive attitude of the mothers in how seeing a child who had almost died overcoming that. It’s really a such a satisfying feeling for us also.”

The NRH and organizations like it are saving lives and helping children reach their full potential with support from U.S. development assistance. Each year, 3 million children die from causes related to malnutrition and 165 million suffer from its consequences. Food aid, currently in danger of severe cuts, not only mitigates and prevents hunger but also shows that our nation values children all over the world—something Christians strongly believe. 

Food aid does more than just save lives; it's an investment in a stable and peaceful future. In the briefing paper "Sustaining U.S. Leadership and Investments in Scaling Up Maternal and Child Nutrition," senior foreign policy analyst Scott Bleggi writes, “There is solid evidence that demonstrates that improving nutrition – particularly early in life, in the 1,000 days between a women’s pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, has a profound impact on a country’s long-term economic development and stability.”

Progress on improving nutrition for vulnerable children like those in Nepal would be undermined if proposals to slash food aid become law. In the House version of the farm bill, food aid would be cut by $2.5 billion dollars. The Senate version would reform the food aid program, making it more flexible and able to reach more vulnerable mothers and infants in the first 1,000 days.

Sequestration is also chipping away at global anti-hunger programs. This year has already seen a $1 billion cut to poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) because of these automatic across-the-board cuts. A recent appropriations bill approved in the House would further slash PFDA by a devastating 26 percent.

Our nation’s leaders have an opportunity to make history with small investments in anti-hunger programs – PFDA comprises less than 1 percent of the federal budget.  Reforms to food aid could save even more lives. But, Congress needs motivation. They need to hear from their constituents that investing in human lives is a priority. During the month of August, reach out to your members of Congress and let them know that cuts can and do cost lives.

Recap: July Grassroots Conference Call and Webinar

Montana lobby visit
Pastor Charlotte Schmiedeskamp of Thompson Falls, Mont., talks about proposed SNAP cuts and sequestration during a visit with her member of Congress during Bread for the World's June 2013 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)

July and August offer plenty of opportunities to talk about hunger and poverty with your members of Congress.  

Yesterday, during Bread for the World’s monthly grassroots conference call and webinar, members of our policy and organizing staff emphasized that it is important to act now. Director of government relations Eric Mitchell encouraged advocates to take advantage of in-district meetings and town halls during the August recess, a time when members of Congress return to their home districts. “This is the time they need to hear from constituents," Mitchell said. "After August, things will move fast.”

Bread staffers reviewed the last six months and also looked ahead to what may transpire between now and the end of the year. The bottom line: your phone calls make a difference and will continue to be needed.

Noting that the media has largely ignored the effects of sequestration on vulnerable people, Bread policy analyst Amelia Kegan said, “We know if it’s not front page news, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening and isn’t important—if Congress doesn’t hear from you, they won’t think it’s a problem.”  Kegan went on to point out that a long-term replacement of the sequester is unlikely at this point, but a short-term fix is still possible this fall, especially as more defense spending cuts take their toll. The question moving forward is how Congress will choose to replace the spending cuts—whether they decide to cut programs like SNAP or taking a balanced approach that includes increased revenues may depend on the pressure that anti-hunger advocates put on their lawmakers.

An examination of recent House farm bill activity showed that two wrongs don’t make a right. The first draft of the bill, which included $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP, failed in a floor vote. The version of the bill that the House passed last week does not include the title that authorizes the SNAP program. SNAP will continue to operate at existing levels under current rules and can still be included in a conference with the Senate farm bill (which cuts the program by $4.1 billion). But, as policy analyst Christine Melendez-Ashley cautioned, the way forward for the nutrition title is not yet clear, and that leaves the SNAP vulnerable to cuts in both the farm bill and the appropriations process

Staff members also provided an update on the latest threats to international food aid, which delivers emergency assistance to hungry people overseas. House proposals in the farm bill and spending bills would slash the program. The Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced in the House by a bi-partisan group of representatives, was also discussed.

Mitchell also stressed that Bread members must put pressure on their representatives to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. The Senate passed a comprehensive bill late last month, but is in unclear how the House will come up with a comprehensive bill or a piecemeal approach to reform. 

The next monthly conference call and webinar will be held on Sept. 17.

Beckmann Testifies Before Congress, Asks for Increased Funding for Nutrition

Khato Rana plays with her daughter Rita, 2, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The facility, run by Nepali NGO RUWDUC (Rural Women's Development Unity Center), restores malnourished children back to health. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

The United States has exhibited great leadership in the areas of global development, food security, and nutrition, but more must be done, said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, during testimony given Tuesday before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations.

Beckmann asked the committee to continue its bipartisan support for food security, agriculture, and nutrition—especially in the critical period from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through a child’s second birthday, also known as the 1,000-day window of opportunity. High-level political leadership by the U.S. through initiatives such as Feed the Future, the 1,000 Days Partnership, and Child Survival Call to Action has increased awareness of the importance of maternal and child nutrition around the world, but more importantly, spurred other countries to action. But, Beckmann cautioned that such actions must be accompanied by an increase in funding, as well as important reforms to the U.S. foreign aid system, such as more local procurement, a more efficient food aid system, and greater transparency and accountability. He specifically suggested raising U.S. funding for nutrition from $95 million, in the fiscal year 2013 budget, to $200 million in FY 2014.

“The U.S. government has …encouraged the world to use new knowledge about how best to reduce the carnage of child malnutrition,” he said. “We now have clear evidence, for example, that available dollars should go first to improving nutrition in pregnant women, new mothers, and young children in the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity. This will reduce preventable child deaths and lock in the potential of every child by giving them a good start to life.”

Beckmann’s testimony comes at a time when both a shrinking international affairs budget and the series of across-the-board cuts known as sequestration threaten funding for poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA). Many important international nutrition, food security, development, and humanitarian programs fall under the umbrella of PFDA. These programs build secure, healthy, and productive nations at a fiscal cost of less than one percent of the federal budget.  Beckmann cautioned that the sequester, if not replaced with a more balanced plan, will slash $1.1. billion from PFDA this year alone.

“Some cuts kill,” Beckmann said, before explaining that sequestration will deprive 600,000 malnourished children of life-altering and live-saving nutritional assistance, deny 1 million poor farmers of agricultural assistance, and will stop 5 million people from receiving lifesaving medical interventions.

“As a Christian preacher, allow me to say that our nation’s efforts to help reduce hunger, poverty, and disease around the world are important to Almighty God,” Beckmann said. “I’m convinced that God loves me, all of us, and everybody—including the millions of families around the world who struggle to feed their children.”

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