Tell the "lame duck" Congress to support life-saving foreign assistance programs

Food distribution

Community members of the Kalimbui rock catchment assist with the emergency food distribution. Photo: Amelia Vogler

Contact your Senators and Representative, asking them to support the Senate’s FY 2013 funding levels for overseas relief and development programs in any “lame duck” decisions about foreign assistance. Even if you have written to Congress about this previously, now is the time to write them again.

Background

The so-called “lame duck” Congress, which is meeting now until the end of this session near Christmas, may be making major decisions affecting vital programs for years to come. The biggest concern is that if nothing changes, automatic cuts (called "sequestration") will go into effect on Jan. 2. If that happens, approximately 8 percent will be cut from every budget line item, including domestic and international hunger and poverty programs. The "lame duck" Congress may take action to prevent these automatic cuts by adopting alternative means for decreasing the federal deficit.

Decisions about these automatic cuts may be folded into action related to the expiration of a number of tax cuts on Dec. 31. All these issues may be wrapped up together in a “grand bargain” between Congress and President Obama. It is vital that – whatever Congress and the President decide – robust funding must remain for U.S. domestic and international assistance to the poor and vulnerable.

Foreign Assistance saves lives! For less than 1 percent of the federal budget:

  • Last year international Food Aid programs reached more than 66 million people, including 5.2 million school children.
  • More than 1 million lives can be saved each year by funding programs that focus on adequate nutrition during the 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age 2.
  • Aid to small-scale farmers in poor countries is helping ensure food security for entire communities and preventing future famines.
  • The Senate’s modestly higher funding levels will enable 3.35 million more malnourished people to be treated using simple, low-cost measures including micronutrient powders, de-worming, and adequate iron and folic-acid for pregnant women, and 850,000 more people could receive cleaner, safer water and sanitation.

Faith reflection

Churches and faith-based agencies like Church World Service are engaged in extensive relief and development efforts, and we know the need and the suffering first hand. We are doing our part, but we can’t do it all. We need our country to continue to invest in poverty-focused development assistance. Millions of hungry people and those impacted by debilitating diseases are able to live productive lives because of our aid.

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