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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.

We urge you to be part of the conversation and to contact your elected representatives if you have questions or concerns.


Casey Neese