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.

South Sudan: Six Months of Fighting, a Generation of Children at Risk


Anonymous

Dan Stewart

Save the Children , South Sudan

June 15, 2014

 
 

Six months ago today, fighting of shocking brutality erupted in South Sudan.

The toll of those months of conflict makes grim reading: more than 500,000 children have been forced to flee their homes and are now scattered across the bush, staying in overstretched communities or bunched together in camps, their lives in limbo.

Three-quarters of those hit by the crisis are under 18

There are 95 schools that remain occupied by armed groups or displaced people;  a quarter of all schools in the country are closed.

Image001_SouthSudanCommunities are cut off from supplies with families surviving on leaves and grass. Famine looms. Unless swift action is taken, 2.5 million children face a hunger crisis and 50,000 are likely to die of malnutrition.

More than 9,000 children have been recruited into armed groups since the fighting began, while at least 22,300 have been affected by grave violations including attacks on schools, sexual violence and abductions.

South Sudan’s children have suffered for six months. The question is, what kind of future will they have?

Building lasting peace and security

I have seen children responding with courage, hope and determination. All parties involved in the fighting should follow their example.

These brave children are at serious risk, not just from the violence but from the psychological impact of what they have already been through. Without psychosocial support now to help them recover from their traumatic experiences, the events of these past few months could scar their entire futures.

Dwindling food stocks, rising prices and empty stomachs

Many communities are trapped: completely cut off from possible help. To travel along roads that cross the front line? “That is the end of your life,” I have been told.

Other, less dangerous, roads have become impassable as the rains turn rough roads into muddy quagmires.

In remote areas, families already eating grass and leaves have told me their food supplies will run out completely by the end of June. The rains will also become too heavy then to plant crops.

These children want to learn

These people desperately need seeds and tools now so they’ll have a harvest in the autumn. Otherwise, the hunger crisis will only deepen. And they need food to see them through until then.

Yet with all the hardship, hunger and uncertainty, children tell me they want education above all. They are right to want this: the longer a child is out of school, the further they fall behind and the more likely they are never to return. South Sudan’s future depends on giving its children their right to learn.

Six months on from the start of the crisis the need to act could not be more urgent. Save the Children is doing whatever it takes to bring children protection, education, and treatment for malnourishment. We need your help to reach more children. Their future hangs in the balance.

 Donate to help the children of South Sudan.

South Sudan: “Since we arrived here, no-one will kill my family, but hunger could.”


Anonymous

Dan Stewart

Save the Children , South Sudan

June 16, 2014

 
 

Nyandong and Sunday“Nyandong* looks straight at me. She is unflinching. Small, thin limbs occasionally wrap around her or clamber up, looking for purchase, as her children mill around us. She has her malnourished one year old boy quiet and still in her arms and her face is intent as she tells me what has happened to her family since brutal fighting engulfed many parts of Jonglei, South Sudan, in December.

“Innocent people were killed in those days. There were a lot of us running together then some of the people we were with got caught. They were surrounded and killed. It was just by luck that we survived. We crouched and hid behind a fence, just hoping no-one would find us. I could see the scared faces of my children, and armed men walking the streets looking for people to kill.

 “When the sun set we left. We took nothing and it took us thirty days to walk here. We ate the leaves off the trees and I thought we would die of thirst. When we saw birds circling in the sky we followed them because we hoped they would be flying above water. I don’t know how we survived.

 “My children kept asking me for food and water but I didn’t have any. The children were constantly crying. They got rashes on their skin and became thin. They wanted to stop. They fell down on their knees and cut themselves. I had to pull them along – if we stopped we would have died there. My daughter had to bring her little brother, but he was too tired. I had to tell her to drag him along even though he cried.

 We are talking in remote Nyirol county, in an area set back from the frontline where tens of thousands of people have fled for safety. But Nyandong explains that for her family and many others, one threat has been replaced by another. Severe hunger is the price they have paid to escape the bullets.

 “Since we arrived here, no-one will kill my family. But hunger could. Hunger could kill everyone here. Nyandong and family

 “We depend on others. When people in the community give us some food, then we can eat. We eat one small meal a day. We mix grass and leaves in with sorghum to make it last longer. The leaves are very bad for children – it gives them diarrhoea.

 There is just one chink of light. Save the Children screened Nyandong’s 1 year old daughter Sunday* and found she was severely malnourished. We have been providing therapeutic feeding to begin nursing her back to health. “Sunday was about to die” Nyandong says. “She was very thin. A baby should walk one year after she is born but Sunday is more than a year old and still she can’t because of the malnourishment. If she has food I know she will walk soon. And my other children are suffering so much. They have nothing.”

 In South Sudan 50,000 children are likely to die from malnourishment unless treatment is scaled up immediately. Save the Children is helping catch children like Sunday before it is too late, but we need your help to reach more.

 Donate to help the children of South Sudan.

*Names changed to protect identities