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Over the past five days we’ve written a series summarizing the poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance programs InterAction recommends our government support.
While a deal has been reached to increase the nation’s debt ceiling, it’s still vague what and how much will be cut to reduce U.S. spending by $2.1 trillion over the next decade. But a post today by InterAction President and CEO Sam Worthington on the Poverty Matters blog, makes a persuasive case why the world cannot afford the cuts to foreign aid already approved by a House Appropriations subcommittee.
Read his post here.
As a member of InterAction, Heifer supports the recommendations and applauds Worthington’s post. But please, don’t give up. There’s still time to make your voice heard. Tell your representatives that cutting funding to these programs would be unacceptable.
It’s been reported that Congress will start voting today on a last-minute debt ceiling deal to reduce the U.S. deficit by at least $2.1 trillion over the next decade. The House must vote before the Senate and they don’t have a lot of time since the debt ceiling must be raised by Tuesday.
The exact cuts are still unknown, however, as a member of InterAction, we believe in their foreign assistance plan which will be put in front of the House on Wednesday.
Let’s break down some of the highlights of InterAction’s funding recommendations for child survival and peace grants.
Global Health and Child Survival (both USAID and State): $5. 64 billion request
Purpose: Supports PEPFAR which combats HIV/AIDS through prevention, treatment and strengthening health systems as part of the administration’s overall Global Health Initiative.
- UNAIDS recently issued a report noting that the global annual rate of new cases of HIV dropped by 25 percent in the last decade.
- AIDS-related deaths have dropped and about 6.6 million people in low-and middle-income countries that were receiving treatment at the end of 2010
- HIV prevalence among young people (15-24) is declining.
- As of the end of 2010 the Global Fund has provided, 3 million people with HIV/AIDS treatment, 7.7 million people with tuberculosis treatment, and disbursed 160 million insecticide-treated nets.
Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities: $2.145 billion request
Purpose: Provides voluntary U.S. contributions to support UN peacekeeping missions.
- U.S. stands and leverages with the contributions of other countries to cost-effectively further U.S. foreign policy objectives in volatile regions around the world.
- UN peacekeeping missions work to support and implement the terms of ceasefires and peace agreement.
- Build government capacity and protect people from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
P.L. 480 Title II Food for Peace Grants: $1.69 billion request
Purpose: The P.L. 480 Title food for Peace account provides for the donation of U.S. agriculture commodities to meet emergency and non-emergency food needs in other countries, reducing hunger and malnutrition and helping achieve food security.
- U.S. food assistance targets the world’s most vulnerable populations in times of urgent needs, whether provoked by natural disaster, conflict, or acute economic difficulties.
- A mixture of cash- and commodity-based resources will ensure the U.S. has a flexible of emergency response options
- Food assistance has played a critical role in southern Soudan over the last few years and has been key in supporting families returning home
McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition: $200.5 million request
Purpose: The McGovern-Dole account helps support education, child development, and food security for of the world’s poorest children. It provides for donations of U.S. agriculture products, as well as financial and technical assistance, for school feeding and maternal and child nutrition projects in low-income, food deficit countries that are committed to universal education.
- There are approximately 130 million school-age children in the world’s poorest countries who are undernourished and would be eligible for school feeding programs.
- The US is currently able to reach approximately 5 million children a year with a school meal
- School meals also help improve cognition and nutrition and act as a safety net by freeing up to 10 percent of a family’s income to be spent on other assets.
How do you feel about all of the recommendations listed above? If you want your voice to be heard, contact your local representatives.
As Donna said in her post yesterday, we’re highlighting key aspects of the US budget that fund poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance. Heifer wishes to inform its supporters about the value of what could be lost in a flurry of cuts to meet the fast-approaching Aug. 2 deadline.
Heifer International is a member of InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations that focus on the world’s most poor and vulnerable populations. InterAction recently released a set of recommendations for the US government’s FY 2012 budget, and Heifer supports these recommendations. Here’s a summary of the four recommendations dealing with disaster relief and recovery, and programs that aid refugees.
International Disaster Assistance: $1.3 billion (FY10 adjusted total)
Purpose: Enables quick and effective response by USAID’s Office for U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to humanitarian emergencies caused by natural and man-made disasters like famines, floods and earthquakes.
Justification: Overall funding levels remain insufficient to meet the growing need. As the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti demonstrated, when unexpected emergencies strike, OFDA does not have adequate contingency funding on hand and must reduce its response to protracted crises elsewhere in order to respond to the unanticipated. InterAction is proposing an additional $300 million in this account to fund cash-based emergency food assistance. These additional resources are particularly important given the grim famine in the Horn of Africa.
Office of Transition Initiatives: $56 million (Request)
Purpose: The Transition Initiatives (TI) account bridges the gap between emergency aid and long-term development through quick-impact political and economic reconstruction programs.
Justification: The recommended amount would allow the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) to continue its work as a key civilian instrument on the ground providing fast, flexible, short-term assistance targeted at key political transition and stabilization needs worldwide. Since the weeks following the January 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake, OTI has played a significant role in providing assistance to the Government of Haiti. OTI’s role in Haiti is continuing in 2011 with cholera prevention and response activities and will likely extend through 2012 in the ongoing earthquake recovery.
Migration and Refugee Assistance: $1.85 billion (FY10 total)
Purpose: Funds protection and resettlement of refugees, displaced persons and victims of conflict.
Justification: This funding will enable the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) to provide basic life-saving assistance for refugees and to maintain the U.S. commitment to resettlement for some of the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, the number of refugees and internally displaced persons has risen in recent years and at the end of 2009, developing countries were home to four-fifths of the world’s refugees.
Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance: Full Replenishment
Purpose: A revolving fund established to ensure the availability of sufficient resources for refugee protection in unanticipated emergencies.
Justification: The ERMA account provides an important safety valve during times of emergency and the account should be fully funded at its authorized ceiling in FY 2012.The current ceiling of $100 million has not been raised since the mid-1990s despite increased costs of providing emergency assistance. Raising the ceiling would allow the Administration to respond more fully to unanticipated crises – like the 2011 crises in Libya and West Africa where ERMA funding was activated – and would help reduce reliance on supplemental funding.
This all may sound a bit abstract, but think of it this way – many of the terrible things that happen in this world trace their roots back to the unrest that comes when people’s basic needs of nutrition, health or shelter go unmet. Funding these initiatives is an investment in the stability, security, economic prosperity and continued democratic progress of the world.
As Congress looks for cuts to resolve its current budget crisis, foreign aid can easily begin to look like the low-hanging fruit that no one would object too much to losing. But as you study what each account targeted pays for, the negative consequences of a decision to cut funding to these accounts become more clear. A Washington Post article from Wednesday quotes a letter from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton objecting to budget legislation making its way through the House this week.
The bill “would be debilitating to my efforts to carry out a considered foreign policy and diplomacy, and to use foreign assistance strategically to that end,” Clinton wrote.
As a member of InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations that focus on the world’s most poor and vulnerable populations, Heifer is also interested in informing our supporters about the value of what could be lost in a flurry of cuts to meet the fast-approaching Aug. 2 deadline. We urge you to be part of the conversation and to contact your representatives if you have questions or concerns.
Read InterAction’s case for robust foreign assistance here. We’ll be outlining key accounts today and Monday that affect our work around the world to bring peace, stability and economic prosperity to families we all care about as supporters of Heifer International.
The following information includes highlights from InterAction’s funding recommendations for poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance accounts for Fiscal Year 2012.
Development Assistance: $3.3 billion request
Purpose: Builds the foundation for self-sufficiency through basic education, micro and small enterprise development, agricultural improvements, democracy and governance and protecting the environment.
- Food price volatility and extreme weather such as the current drought in the Horn of Africa overburden the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, pushing more into extreme hunger. Sustaining the progress made in implementing Feed the Future is critical in ensuring the economic security and well-being of us all.
- Quality basic education drives economic growth, enhances security, builds peace and respect for human rights and creates global trading partners around the world.
- Biodiversity programs help protect some of the largest and most at-risk natural landscapes, ensure clean water, promote rural peace and security, boost health, secure environmental resources and reduce poverty for millions of people.
- A World Health Organization study concluded that every dollar invested in clean water and sanitation yields $8 in increased productivity and decreased health costs.
International Organizations and Programs: $348.7 million request
Purpose: Provides voluntary U.S. contributions to United Nations-affiliated agencies such as the U.N. Development Program, UNICEF, the U.N. Population Fund and the World Food Program.
- UNICEF funding helps save and improve the lives of children around the world.
- United Nations Women helps promote women’s political participation and economic security in over 100 countries, particularly where they face the highest levels of insecurity.
- United Nations Development Program works to encourage democratic governance, plays a lead role in coordinating international responses to disasters and conflict around the world and focuses on energy, environment and health issues as they relate to human development. UNDP strives to ensure that all of its programs support gender equality and respect for human rights.
Millennium Challenge Corporation: $1.125 billion request
Purpose: The Millennium Challenge Corporation partners with impoverished countries that are committed to good governance, economic freedom and investing in their people to fund projects that reduce poverty by removing obstacles to economic growth in sectors such as health, transportation, agriculture, power and fiscal transparency.
Justification: The model clearly works in two main ways. Through the incentive for better governance it creates: the record clearly shows sustainable and constructive policy changes in multiple countries seeking to qualify for MCC candidacy. Second, it works through country-owned and therefore sustainable projects it funds that are creating economic growth and raising incomes.
Photo by Geoff Oliver Bugbee
The time to act is now. Go read this from InterAction, and then come back.
Heifer’s Director of Governmental and Institutional Relations in Washington, D.C. wrote the following message.
The unprecedented din over the debt ceiling seems to overpower everything in Washington right now; but underneath it, a very real struggle over the FY2012 budget is underway, with very real consequences for the world’s poor and hungry, amid new humanitarian crises in East Africa that threaten to draw away already fragile development resources. Because this year is so politically out of the ordinary, InterAction’s senior legislative manager put a document together to augment the formal White House budget request to the joint Senate-Hose Foreign Operations Subcommittee. The introduction justifying the request for $5 billion includes the following language:
$5 billion is 0.03% of the U.S. GDP in 2014 or 0.14% of the total FY2012 federal budget request. This equals about what Americans spend on Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations each year, and a quarter of what we spend on sports tickets each year, 10 days of war-fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the cost of about one and a half of the Navy’s DDG-1000 destroyers.
Those of us who work in development in D.C. are painfully aware that, save for a few NGOs and private businesses, the field of international development (and USAID’s programs) have no other domestic political support base–unlike nearly every other issue in Washington. So in this world, we already have two strikes against us before we even open our mouths.
We must make our displeasure known loudly and clearly. We need to make it clear that these cuts have been noticed and are going to attract some negative attention. Members of the full Appropriations Committee especially need to hear that message.
Here’s what House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers had to say about the FY2012 State and Foreign Appropriations Bill for Subcommittee Markup: “Where necessary, we have cut funding for ineffective and unproven programs.” If you’re already up-to-date with this issue and know that many of the programs receiving cuts are proven and effective, go ahead and tell the House Committee on Appropriations that you disagree with this assessment.
If this sounds like a lot to swallow, we’ll be providing a series of summaries of the poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance programs InterAction recommends our government support with our tax dollars (the same amount of money we spend on Halloween can make a world of difference with these programs).
Earlier today I posted about a Heifer project participant being included in The Economist’s report, The 9 billion-people question: A special report on feeding the world. And if you’re keyed in to media coverage of sustainable agriculture, you’ve probably seen the conversation around the web on the United Nations Report, Agroecology and the Right to Food (Mark Bittman has written about it on the New York Times Opinionator blog, and Paula Crossfield for Huffington Post, to name a couple).
Both reports look at the seemingly impossible challenge of feeding all 9 billion people who are estimated to be living on Earth by 2050, and they offer different perspectives. Will we feed the world by investing in the highest-yielding crop or livestock species? Or by investing in agroecology? (Heifer has been practicing agroecology all over the world since the mid 1980s and established an Agroecology Initiative in 2000.)
I worry, though, that the theme of “feeding the world” diverts our attention from the local, on-the-ground work that needs to be done. Heifer takes on the task of ending hunger and poverty with this sort of community approach, and it’s an approach that we’ve proven works.
Ours is a bottom-up approach. We work with the very poor to help them rebuild assets and develop agriculturally and economically active livelihoods. We build strong community groups where people work together to share their limited resources and to plan their vision of a better life. At this stage, much training takes place. Participants learn improved ways to tend animals, how to best use animal by-products, water management and erosion control practices, and often even improved literacy and leadership skills.
A transformation process begins to happen within the community when the members realize that improvements in knowledge lead to improvements in health, income, relationships and eventually to their values. We call this a holistic transformation.
Once this transformation is underway, the community uses their knowledge to impact the policies, systems and practices that impact their surroundings (both societal and environmental). Community empowerment at the grassroots level can lead to changes in infrastructure to help build local commerce–roads, electricity, commodity storage and transportation, as well as market associations and structures.
We’ve seen our model work again and again, in all corners of the world (and even in our own backyard). Our challenge now is to ratchet up this model so we can begin to see our impacts on a larger scale, as we have with our East Africa Dairy Development Project. As communities begin to feed themselves, international hunger statistics will begin to come down. The need for wealthy countries to ship commodities to poor countries will decrease–countries will be growing their own food.
Left: Bolivia (photo by Geoff Bugbee), Top: Cambodia (photo by Matt Bradley)
Botton: Armenia (photo by Russ Powell), Right: Zambia (photo by Jake Lyell
And then the question of whether conventional agriculture is more productive or if sustainable/organic/agroecological agriculture is better will become a non-issue.
Can we do it alone? Of course not. We need help from individuals like you, from partner nonprofits and non-government organizations, and from governments–wealthy and poor alike.
David Zinczenko, in his Eat This, Not That newsletter for Men’s Health magazine, has some fun digging around in the ingredients lists of some common foods in this article.
“Simpler is always better. Think about it. Would you rather have your job made simpler, or more complicated? How about your relationship? Your finances? Those instructions to assembling your new IKEA bookshelf?”
The same goes for food. Take Nacho Cheese Doritos, which contain 39 different ingredients, when it takes only about three ingredients to make a regular tortilla chip.
Or my favorite of his examples, Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza. He counts 64 ingredients in the pizza, “and an astounding 24 in the ground beef alone.” One of those 24 is silicon dioxide, otherwise known as sand.
A good reminder to pay attention to what we’re eating. He recommends we all eat at home tonight.
For another perspective on this topic, read my interview with Marion Nestle titled “Eat Real Food” in our World Ark Summer 2010 issue set to hit mailboxes any day now. You can also find the article online here.
Also, check out Nestle’s blog for daily updates on food topics.
Heifer Nepal’s Communication and Networking Officer Puja Singh sends in this post from Kathmandu, where a six-day strike shut all businesses and schools under threat of violence from the Maoist Party, which demanded the prime minister and his coalition government step down. Read more about the strike here. We are relieved to hear our colleagues are now back at work though instability and economic effects of the strike continue. Read Puja’s account of the strike below the photo, taken during the strike in Kathmandu.
Photo by Pravaran Mahat, Kathmandu, Nepal
Report by Puja Singh, Heifer Nepal
Once again Nepal is making world headlines for all the wrong reasons. The indefinite strike called by the Maoist Party commenced from May 2 and the country came to a screeching halt. The intention to coax the present government to resign amidst the pending constitution and other deadlines was a vulgar display of power and nothing else. Just another day in Nepali politics! This bandh (Nepali for strike) however saw less violence than expected. The general population was safe inside their homes except for a few incidents of innocent people caught amidst the riot police and the demonstrators. If the situation had been prolonged, there would have been a crisis of food material in the capital and many other cities. In the villages, farm produce was rotting and farmers dumped staggering quantities of rotting vegetables and milk, protesting the strike.
On May 7, after five days of bandh, a rally was organized; droves of people from different walks of life marched the streets demanding peace. The Maoists tried to attack them, too! The party has recently entered mainstream politics from being a rebel group and old habits die hard!! The next day they withdrew the strike temporarily.
The resilience of the Nepali people showed in the many ways they survived this ordeal. Past experiences have weathered us to roll with the punches and to keep our kitchen well stocked. But the fact remains that this tug of war for power needs to end.
I am reminded of some wise words from a wise one:
“… It is what we have hungered for
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds …”
Excerpts from Amazing Peace – A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou.
Thank you for your prayers and concern. Being out of the house after six days feels like heaven! The country is back to work now. Everyone is in a rush to make up for lost time and get things done before it all starts again!!!