Sorghum bags being dispatched from Jijiga to drought-affected areas in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Photo by: U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa / CC BY-ND

Foreign aid works for us all

Sorghum bags being dispatched from Jijiga to drought-affected areas in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Photo by: U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa / CC BY-ND

Originally published on Devex.com

Leaked documents reported this week suggest the Trump Administration would like to cut foreign aid by more than 30 percent and possibly merge the U.S. Agency for International Development with the State Department. This proposal comes despite the fact that we are facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II—there are more people fleeing war and persecution than ever in history—and famine conditions are threatening parts of the Middle East and Africa.

I’ve recently heard some critics say that foreign aid does not work. This could not be farther from the truth. Dollar-for-dollar, it is one of the most effective uses of our taxes. One penny of every dollar in the total U.S. budget goes to helping families in other countries—a small investment that saves lives and helps millions of people every year. Strong U.S. leadership during the last 25 years has helped cut extreme poverty in half and led to half as many children dying around the world from preventable illnesses like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. We need to build on this progress rather than allow it to lapse.

America currently spends nearly 50 percent less on foreign assistance, as a percentage of gross domestic product, than during the Reagan administration. Further reducing this budget would hinder the U.S. government’s ability to help respond to disasters – natural and man-made – including those that know no borders, like the recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks. Being prepared to respond quickly to the next disease is just as critical for U.S. citizens as it is for those at the epicenter of the outbreak.

Countless times, I’ve seen firsthand how U.S. foreign assistance works and saves lives. I recently visited Jordan, a country that is committed to welcoming families fleeing violence and persecution in neighboring countries. More than 650,000 Syrian refugees, half of them under the age of 18, are now in Jordan, and the U.S. provides significant foreign aid for refugee programs in the country. That support feeds young refugee children, offers children the chance to get back into school after years of being away from home and provides vocational training for Syrian youth to give them hope for a productive future. This U.S. funding is essential if we are to avoid a lost generation of young people who can eventually help put their country on a better path.

In addition, today nearly 20 million people in Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan face the threat of starvation, and famine has already been declared in South Sudan. Save the Children is on the ground working with partners, including USAID, to provide lifesaving water, food and treatment to these children and families whose lives depend on our help. U.S. foreign aid is critical for preventing and addressing famine, yet proposed budget cuts would eliminate funding for the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) that helps us prevent and respond faster and more efficiently to famine conditions around the globe.

Preparing for drought before its worst effects take hold is on average three times more cost-effective than emergency response, as illustrated by studies in Ethiopia and Kenya. Pair this with the World Bank study that calculated disaster risk reduction saves $4-7 for every $1 invested, and it’s clear that our foreign aid investments are not only the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective but also from a fiscal perspective. To put it simply: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Promoting health, education, gender equality and economic opportunities for communities around the world leads to more stable societies, which are critical to our national interests. A group of more than 120 retired generals and admirals agree and sent a letter to Congress in February stating, “The military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, but it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism – lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness.”

The international affairs budget is a triple win: it helps U.S. economic and national interests, it helps people prosper, and it saves lives. These proposed budget cuts and the folding of USAID into the State Department would deeply hurt America and our neighbors. We all need to do our part by telling our members of Congress that this funding is critical to our wellbeing.

International Development and Humanitarian Aid: A Rare Point of Agreement Between Republicans and Democrats

Refugees in a child-safe space in Greece, run by Save the Children
Refugees in a child-safe space in Greece, run by Save the Children

For the past two weeks, Americans have watched the Republican and Democratic National Conventions with excitement and anticipation as party leaders presented starkly different visions of what the country’s next four years could look like.

The parties also adopted their official platforms, laying out their policy positions – both domestic and foreign. Save the Children has been engaged at the gatherings in both Cleveland and Philadelphia to advocate for policies in the United States and abroad that protect children and help them survive and thrive. As a child-centered development organization active in 120 countries, we are particularly interested in the two parties’ positions on international humanitarian and development assistance.

Happily – and in contrast to wide divides on other issues – the platforms indicate that both Democrats and Republicans view international development and humanitarian assistance as integral to U.S. security and as embodying U.S. ideals. According to the Republican Platform, foreign aid, “Advanc[es] America’s security and economic interests by preventing conflict, building stability.” The Democratic Platform uses similar language, stating that development assistance can, “Prevent threats, enhance stability, and reduce the need for military force.”

But there are differences between the two platforms. While both focus on making aid more effective, the Republican position on international assistance emphasizes encouraging increased private sector involvement to drive economic growth, promote country ownership, and sustainably combat poverty. For its part, the Democratic Platform emphasizes further incorporating local organizations, marginalized populations, and women in development to promote country ownership.

Due in part to recent sustained, bipartisan support for international development, extreme poverty has been halved in the past 25 years, with 50 million more children in school and 14,000 more children surviving each day. This past Congress provides examples of bipartisan cooperation on development assistance including:

But there is more work to be done. Save the Children continues to advocate to sustain efforts to help the world’s most vulnerable children, both in the United States and abroad. A key part of this effort is Save the Children’s Every Last Child campaign launched this year to reach children marginalized due to their gender, disability, geographic isolation, ethnicity, or their status as refugees or immigrants.

Many children have been left out of global progress due to a combination of poverty and discrimination, whether it be intentional or unintentional. To reach these children, the Every Last Child campaign focuses on three pillars:

  • Fair financing
  • Equitable treatment, and
  • Accountability

 The winner of the election will have a profound impact on shaping how America engages with the world. Save the Children believes that with an inclusive approach to international development assistance and a continued investment in responding to humanitarian crises, we could be generation that ends extreme poverty and preventable child and maternal deaths. The opportunity is there to be seized.

In order to reach the Every Last Child campaign’s goal of inclusion, more needs to be done by both sides of the aisle – and recent history proves it’s possible. Regardless of who sits in the White House, Save the Children will be knocking on their door to ensure that every last child, no matter where they live, has the chance to survive and thrive.

LindseyMattila

This post was written by Lindsey Mattila and Sarah Hogoboom.  Lindsey is a Global Health and Food Security Policy Intern working with the Public Policy and Advocacy Department this summer. She is from Portland, Oregon and will be a senior this fall at Claremont McKenna College where she is studying Government. Sarah Hogoboom is the Summer Global Development and Advocacy Intern with our Public Policy and Advocacy Department. A rising senior at Hamilton College, Sarah studies World Politics and works at the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center on campus.

Sunday is the Day!

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Tanya Weinberg, Director of Media and Communications

Washington D.C.

October 12, 2011


Pop Quiz!  This coming Sunday is:

 A)     A good day for brunch

B)      World Food Day

C)      Blog Action Day

D)     All of the Above

I’m going with D. Like so many of us, I’m working hard this week, and I’m looking forward to a nice Sunday brunch with friends. But, October 16 is also World Food Day, a time to reflect on food and hunger issues around the world. 

It’s very cool that this year, Sunday is also Blog Action Day – a chance for thousands of bloggers to rally around an important cause. Special thanks to our friends at Oxfam for organizing this year’s Blog Action Day around an issue affecting hundreds of millions of children around the world – hunger.

Save the Children has produced an embeddable World Food Day Quiz for the occasion. It’s an interactive way to share some surprising information about hunger. By posting it, bloggers can do more than spread critical awareness, they can offer readers a easy way to make a real difference. The quiz ends with the option to send an urgent message to Congress: Don’t slash foreign aid!  It’s no time to abandon efforts to fight hunger.

Here’s the quiz and below some context around why its ultimate message is so critical right now:

Click here to get the embed code

The good news is that the world has made great progress on reducing child hunger. The United Nations reports that child malnutrition rates in the developing world have dropped from 30 percent to 23 percent between 1990 and 2009. That means millions of children have escaped the permanent physical and intellectual stunting that malnutrition causes, and the deadly disease that can often follow.

But there’s also some really bad news. Just at a time when economic crisis, food price volatility and more severe weather are threatening to reverse gains in fighting global hunger, the U.S. Congress is considering massive cuts to foreign assistance programs that help hungry children around the world.

 If these cuts go through, the United States will have to pull back the kind of help it can now offer to desperately hungry children in the Horn of Africa.  And we’ll also have to slash food security programs that have helped pull many out of hunger over the years.  Did you know that the “Food for Peace” program established by President John F. Kennedy has helped around 3 billion hungry people in 150 countries?

Although surveys have shown many Americans think as much as 25% of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid, the truth is only about 1% does.  And only half of that goes to humanitarian and development programs that fight hunger and disease and offer impoverished children a chance for a better future.   Let’s not cut the very programs that offer the best chances for building a healthier and more prosperous world! 

Whether or not we have the option for a nice Sunday brunch this week, that kind of progress benefits us all.