Why Should You Care about U.S. Humanitarian Aid?

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

ChildFund is among 29 organizations that co-signed a letter to U.S. House leaders expressing grave concerns about proposed reductions in U.S. humanitarian aid.

The bill (H.R.1) would cut global disaster aid by 67 percent, global refugee assistance by 45 percent and global food relief by 41 percent relative to FY10 enacted levels.

Already, less than 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget goes toward foreign assistance, a sum routinely overestimated by Americans.

“It is shocking to imagine that in the next major global humanitarian crisis – the next Haiti, tsunami, or Darfur – the United States might simply fail to show up,” the organizations wrote.

Liberia children ChildFund

Liberia children discuss home and school issues affecting their lives.

When such disasters strike, the absence of U.S. humanitarian aid likely would have a devastating impact on children who are by far the most vulnerable in chaotic situations.

In countries such as Liberia, where ChildFund has worked to help children recover from a violent civil war that ended in 2003, new worries abound with the recent influx of 70,000 refugees fleeing hostilities in neighboring Ivory Coast, notes Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund’s president and CEO.

Goddard, who traveled to Liberia in late February, met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who expressed concern over USAID reductions and her country’s ability to manage the refugee situation. “She told me her worst fears were coming true,” Goddard says. “This is a country that is successfully reweaving its social fabric, but it’s still very tenuous.”

In their letter to congressional leaders, the humanitarian and development organizations implored reconsideration of budget cuts that would “imperil the longstanding U.S. commitment to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance for those threatened by disaster and conflict.”

Humanitarian aid is saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year, including the lives of children who are eager to change the world. If you believe the U.S. should retain its leadership role in this compassionate effort, consider contacting your U.S. representative with regard to H.R. 1.

Update: The Senate is likely to consider a vote for the current FY11 budget on Friday, March 18, the day before their week-long recess.

International and national humanitarian, relief, and faith-based organizations will ask their members, donors, and supporters to contact their members of Congress to stop the budget cuts that affect the world’s poorest.

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