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.

A Person of Great Importance

Author Portrait_Kelvin Mulenga, Information and Communications Officer
Kelvin Mulenga

Information and Communications Officer

Save the Children in Zambia

April 27, 2017

Walking along one of the paths in a small community called Nkana, I cannot help but notice the very jovial little girl who smiles despite needing a wheelchair. I am curious about her, and my curiosity leads me into a discussion with her and her mother, Rose.

I learn that this child is Celine, a 12-year-old girl and third grade student at one of the Sponsorship-supported schools in Lufwanyama. She is the last born of her family of 12. She tells us she loves fruit and shares her favorites, “I like oranges, bananas and apples because fruit provides vitamins to my body.”

Sponsorship staff member Kelvin and Celine take a stroll.
Sponsorship staff member Kelvin and Celine take a stroll.

Despite her physical challenges, Celine is passionate about attending school. However, like many disabled children, she was not able to go. She suffers from a spinal disease called scoliosis, which crippled her ability to walk. Though her school is just a short distance from her home, without transportation she was forced out of classes for a full year. In addition to her physical struggles, her family also could not afford to purchase school materials like books and pencils.

After being enrolled in Sponsorship, Save the Children field staff began to look for ways to help Celine attend school. They advocated for Celine to gain access to a wheelchair from one of the local churches in the community, to help her get to school. She also received exercise books from her school, provided through Sponsorship funds.

“I love Sponsorship, as Save the Children is now helping my school with a lot of things, and I am given some of these like books.” Celine said with a smile.

Today, Celine is back in school and tells us she wishes to work in an office one day, where she will be a person of great importance, “When I finish school, I would like to work in an office where I should be signing on documents, that they bring to my office.”

Celine back in class and ready to learn.
Celine back in class and ready to learn.

However, her dream will not be realized without her community continuing to embrace the importance in protecting the health and education of every child, as a fundamental human right – that every child is entitled to enjoy learning regardless of their physical abilities.

Save the Children has been implementing its non-discriminatory programs to help children like Celine attain education despite the many hurdles they face in their life. Continue to dream big, Celine, and we will continue to support you!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

 

Healthy Living for Robinah

Author Portrait_Madrine Amuge, Senior Officer of School Health and NutritionMadrine Amuge

Senior Officer of School Health and Nutrition

Save the Children in Uganda

April 20, 2017

Robinah is 10 years old. She is in grade six and resides in the Lutisi community in our Sponsorship impact area of Wakiso, in Uganda. She loves to go to school, and she tells me her favorite subject is Science. Robinah also shared she would like to become a doctor in the future, to help sick people get better.

Even with a dream that is in the field of health and hygiene, there was a lot that Robinah didn’t know about ways to prevent sickness before joining Sponsorship. “Before Save the Children came to my school, my friends and I didn’t wash our hands after visiting the latrine because we had no source of water, and we also didn’t know how.” says Robinah.

Teachers George and Jennifer, Robinah (third from left), Linda, Gift & Kefa with the schools new cleaning materials.
Teachers George and Jennifer, Robinah (third from left), Linda, Gift & Kefa with the schools new cleaning materials.

Through the School Health and Nutrition programs that our sponsors support, Robinah’s school received a water tank, handwashing facilities and lessons on how to wash their hands properly, in order to kill germs that cause disease. This keep students healthy so they don’t have to miss classes due to preventable illnesses, as well as keeps them more comfortable during the school day. Children who have already received handwashing lessons are becoming champions for spreading better health practices to their friends, families and throughout the community.

Apart from personal hygiene, a clean environment is also very important for schoolchildren like Robinah to be able to study and learn well. Thanks to our sponsors, Robinah’s school now has cleaning materials, garbage bins and the knowledge of how to manage disposal of waste. Already there has been a reduction in sick children, as garbage bins at school are now properly managed and free of disease spreading vermin and insects.

Robinah washing her hands using a handwashing facility provided through funds from sponsors.
Robinah washing her hands using a handwashing facility provided through funds from sponsors.

“I am confident while washing my hands, because I have learned why and how to wash my hands with soap and water. I also learned how to keep my school clean to avoid being sick. I now teach my brothers and sisters at home about the good practices I have learned in school,” shares Robinah.

Robinah is thankful for Save the Children and the Sponsorship program for choosing her community and for teaching her and her friends good hygiene practices. She believes that she can help her community with this knowledge and also be good doctor in the future. Even today, she already has stayed true to her goals in the health profession by sharing her skills with her family members.

Imagine a school where the floor, desks and chairs are covered in dust and dirt, but you still must sit and work at them. In your classroom, children all around you are coughing and tired because they are sick. In the corner of the schoolyard, a mound of garbage is piled high and circled with flies. Could you learn and play in an environment like this? Would you want to go to this school day after day?

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Breaking Out of Her Shell

Author Portrait_Sharon Johnson
Sharon Johnson

Community Liaison

Save the Children U.S. Programs

April 13, 2017

Dayla is in the 1st grade and participates in our sponsorship and in-school literacy programs in her town in Mississippi. Dayla is normally quiet but gets very excited when she hears from her sponsors. Reading the letters and drafting her replies have helped to expand her vocabulary and improve her reading skills. She loves that her sponsor encourages her to do well in school.

1st grade student Dayla is gaining confidence at school thanks to sponsorship.
1st grade student Dayla is gaining confidence at school thanks to sponsorship.

This is Dayla’s first year being enrolled in school and Save the Children programs have been a big help with that transition. Since participating, she’s became more eager to go to school and especially to attend the programs. She has begun talking and participating more in class. Dayla has also been paired with a Foster Grandparent which provides another supportive relationship. And we all know how important supportive, caring relationships are to children’s development. Dayla is excited to improve her reading skills and has made many new friends in the programs.

Dayla enjoying reading a story.
Dayla enjoying reading a story.

Dayla’s self-esteem has improved dramatically since she began school. She has become much more confident and has a positive outlook about school. Her mom is pleased with her progress. Her mom shared, “Save the Children has really been a great help for my child. My child used to be very quiet and not eager to read, but now she’s participating more in class and improving her reading skills.” Dayla has had a successful first year of school thanks to the support of sponsorship and in-school literacy programs.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

 

Born On The Run: Young Iraqi Mothers Fleeing ISIS Give Birth Anywhere They Can

With the battle for West Mosul still raging, and ISIS increasingly using civilians as human shields as coalition airstrikes continue, many expectant mothers are fleeing for their lives – in some cases even giving birth on the run.

Layla* is just three days old and was born in the ruins of an abandoned house, with shelling and shooting all around. Her 17-year-old mother Rehab* was just days away from her due date when the fighting in her neighborhood got unbearable and forced her and her family to flee in the middle of the night.

Rehab fell repeatedly as they tried to escape and went into labor hours into the journey.

“I went into labor on the road. I was very scared for me and my baby but my mother and another older woman helped me,” said Rehab. “It was very quick, maybe just 15 minutes. We rested for about another 30 minutes and then we started running again.”

The family is now in Hamam Al Alil reception center, the main focal point for those fleeing Mosul, where more than 242,000 have been registered since the offensive began.

Most people are relocated quickly, but with thousands arriving every day and more than 320,000 people displaced since the Mosul offensive began six months ago, families, many with young children, are falling through the gaps.

Save the Children is distributing water, toiletries and newborn kits in the camps and have built and continue to clean latrines in the reception center.

Twenty-day old Lubna* has been in the center for almost two weeks. Her 15-year-old mother Reem* was in labor for more than two days but could not get medical care due to the fighting raging outside. The second she was strong enough, her and her mother Masa* fled with several other members of their family.

“Her delivery was very hard, very hard indeed, but there was nothing we could do because of the fighting. We wanted to leave Mosul,” says Masa.

“My brother has been killed and we wanted to go but Reem was too weak, so we stayed for five days and then we left and walked to safety. Thank God Lubna is healthy but we are very worried about her and that she will get sick in a place like this.”

Marwa*, 5 months, at Hamam al-Alil IDP camp in Iraq. Marwa*s mother Ashna* and her father Salar* fled fighting in Mosul with their six young children, including Marwa*. Marwa* said: "The journey was hard and me and the children were very scared. But all I could think about was how we needed to get to safety and how I needed to keep my children safe – so that drove me and kept me going even though the children were very hungry and they were crying a lot. My older children were able to walk but we had to carry the younger ones in our arms – I carried Marwa*, while my husband carried my son and my uncle my other daughter. Marwa* is sick. Ten days ago she got a high fever and bad diarrhea. We were given medicine but it is not working and then, about two days ago, she got a bad cough that is getting worse. Luckily she sleeps at night, but her diarrhea never stops. It is very difficult to deal with this here. There is no privacy at all. Neither me, nor the baby, have had a shower since we arrived 20 days ago and I have five other young children to look after. We all have to sleep on the floor in the tent with many other families. It is noisy and dirty."
Marwa*, 5 months, at an IDP camp in Iraq. Marwa*s mother Ashna* and her father Salar* fled fighting in Mosul with their six young children.

Save the Children’s Deputy County Director Aram Shakaram says:

“The situation inside the reception center is extremely poor and there is a widespread shortage of food, water and blankets. Whole families sleep on nothing but cardboard, huddling together for warmth at night.

“Very young babies, many just days or weeks old are living in these conditions and their mothers, some who are as young as 15, are not getting the support they need.

“With 325,000 people still displaced since the Mosul offensive began and thousands still fleeing every day, it is imperative that we get more funding to support new mothers and their extremely vulnerable children who are starting their lives off in camps.”

Save the Children provides education and psychosocial support to children displaced from Mosul and our child protection teams work in the reception centers to identify cases needing urgent assistance, like unaccompanied minors.

Since the offensive began, we have distributed 3,740 newborn care packages, which have reached almost 11,500 infants. We have also distributed 7,000 rapid response kits that have reached almost 33,000 people and contain essentials like food, water and toiletries for the newly displaced. In addition we are also working to provide clean drinking water and basic sanitation to tens of thousands of people who have fled from Mosul.

To learn more about our response to the refugee crisis and how you can help, click here.

*Names changed for protection

Facing Challenges in the United States, Tax Policy Reform Thrives Abroad

Written by Andrew Wainer, Director of Policy Research, Policy and Humanitarian Response

This spring, Republicans are turning to tax reform, reaching for the policy win the Trump Administration badly needs. Like health care, tax reform is fraught with political pitfalls, making reforming the US’ outdated and complicated tax code another 2017 uphill policy battle.

But even as Congress and the Administration brace for conflict on domestic tax policy, US assistance to developing nations to improve their own tax systems has enjoyed years of bipartisan support.

Multiple US international development agencies – including USAID, PEPFAR, MCC, and the Treasury Department – provide tax policy and administration support to developing nations. The US is the seventh largest provider of domestic resource mobilization (DRM) assistance – as tax reform is called in the development arena. The goal of this advising and capacity-building is to help developing nations harness their public finance systems to better fund their own development and rely less on international development assistance.

Meeting Their Own Development Needs

Years of investment by developing nations themselves – with assistance from donors – has paid off as low-income nations have increased their tax-to-GDP ratio from about 10% during the 1990s to 15%; lower-middle income nations have increased the ratio from about 15% to 20%. This means developing nations are creating a larger tax base and generating more of the money needed to invest in their citizens’ health, education, and other development goals.

Getting tax reform right can have a major economic impact for developing nations: If India adopts its own current tax simplification proposal, it could inject an additional 2% of GDP into the massive South Asian economy by simplifying the tax code for businesses and individuals.

US support for tax reform in the developing world deserves continued support from Congress, not only on self-sufficiency grounds, but also in terms of strengthening governance in a world where the strong rule-of-law is increasingly viewed as the keystone to prosperity.

President Trump himself has emphasized fair taxation and repatriation of US corporate taxes as part of his domestic economic reform package, saying “I know a lot of bad people in this country that are making a hell of a lot of money and not paying taxes.”

And if we can get beyond the stigma of the word “tax,” supporting foreign assistance for DRM includes principles central to both the Democratic and Republican agendas. At its best, DRM assistance includes the following tenets:

DRM is Market Friendly

One of the primary goals of domestic resource mobilization (DRM) assistance abroad is creating the optimal conditions for market-based economic growth. DRM isn’t about soaking the rich, rather it’s aimed at ensuring that tax policy facilitates inclusive economic growth and development. DRM is about creating an attractive environment for domestic and international investment.

DRM Engages Citizens

As DRM enhances states’ capacity to collect and spend revenues, it also provides a platform for citizen engagement in public policy. DRM strengthens the citizen–state compact by ensuring that citizens have the opportunity to influence tax policy formulation and implementation. The OECD has stated, “taxation is integral to strengthening the effective functioning of the state and to the social contract between governments and citizens.”

DRM Reduces Bureaucracy

Part of making tax systems platforms for economic growth, rather than roadblocks, is reducing bureaucracy. DRM assistance includes quantitative goals of raising a developing nation’s tax-to-GDP ratio, but it also integrates the qualitative measure of how a tax system raises money, not just how much it raises.

DRM is about making paying taxes easier for citizens – removing red tape. This can include introducing information technology to make tax collection more efficient and less prone to corruption, simplifying the tax code, and providing better customer service to taxpayers by processing tax returns more quickly.

DRM Enhances Accountability

Of course, sometimes corrupt elites and organizations do game tax systems and part of increasing citizen engagement in tax policy includes increasing the fairness and equity in taxation. US DRM assistance to developing nations includes supporting policy changes to close loopholes for those who don’t pay their fair share.

While US’ DRM technical assistance is a tiny part of the overall US international development budget – for example $20 million per year at USAID – there is growing recognition of the need for donors and developing nations to invest more.

The US government momentum on DRM for developing nations is promising. To maintain it, we’ll need to solidify the transformation of “tax” from a curse word to a widely recognized means to increase citizen engagement in fiscal governance while building a supportive environment for inclusive economic growth.

Malina is a Clever Girl

Author Portrait_Benafsha, School-based ECCD TeacherBenafsha

School-based ECCD Teacher

Save the Children in Afghanistan

April 7, 2017

I am Benafsha. I live in Maimana City of Faryab Province, in Afghanistan. I have been an Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) teacher for three years now. I love my job. I enjoy teaching little kids and preparing them for entering primary school. I think ECCD is a very important program because it prepares children for a better future early on in their lives. I have many great stories from each day of my life as an ECCD teacher, but Malina’s story is one of my favorites.

Malina is a six-year-old girl. She joined our ECCD classes two years ago. Her family is very poor and her parents are illiterate, like many of the children in my classes. When Malina first joined ECCD, she was not behaving well and had difficulties communicating. She was very shy and barely spoke to anyone. Her parents were worried about her.

Benafsha and her smiling ECCD students.
Benafsha and her smiling ECCD students.

Thanks to Sponsorship’s ECCD programs, our classroom is full and colorful. I have also received trainings from Save the Children that help me make my lessons engaging for my young students. Each day here Malina is greeted with a child-friendly and safe environment that helps encourage her to learn and play. As teachers, we help children develop their cognitive, socio-emotional and language skills, as well as skills in early literacy and math. It turned out, all this was exactly what Malina needed.

I encouraged Malina by welcoming her into opportunities to play and participate in different activities. She took the chance to communicate with the other children once they were all playing together. Day by day, Malina gained the courage and confidence to talk more and more. Today, she is a very active and intelligent little girl, which makes her mother very happy. Her mother proudly shared, “Malina is a very clever girl. She is happy and very sociable.”

A happy Malina (middle) and her sister Madina and Malya.
A happy Malina (middle) and her sister Madina and Malya.

Children who graduate from our ECCD classes perform much stronger in school compared to classmates who did not receive any pre-primary school education, and are usually the top of their class. Malina’s mother tells me, I have five daughters. All of them had normal childhoods and thrived. However, Malina struggled with talking for years. I was very worried about her future. I sometimes cried thinking about her. Fortunately, Save the Children established the [ECCD] centers for our children, and it has been two years since she started attending ECCD classes. She is very active now. She sings songs for her sisters, dances and tells us stories. We are very grateful to Save the Children for giving this great opportunity to our children.”

As an ECCD teacher working directly with the children, I find my work fulfilling although it is sometimes hard. I push my limits to go beyond my work and always try to give a little more, helping more children because they deserve to be served and they are the future of our country. I give my special thanks to each of our sponsors, and I hope their support continues so more children like Malina can have brighter futures.

We thank you, Benafsha – our programs would not be possible without hardworking, caring and dedicated teachers like you. Thank you for being our partner in changing children’s lives for the better!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.