Proposed humanitarian aid cuts put millions of lives at risk

February 15, 2012

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Mercy Corps Vice President of Global Engagement and Policy Andrea Koppel today responded to the Obama administration’s FY2013 budget request, which includes a continued overall commitment to foreign aid, but proposes significant cuts to critical humanitarian assistance including food aid and refugee assistance.

Ms. Koppel issued the following statement in response:

“While we applaud President Obama’s continued commitment to the world’s poorest people, Mercy Corps is deeply concerned by the Administration’s proposed cuts to humanitarian assistance. These cuts would severely hinder the United States’ ability to effectively respond to international disasters, and critically undermine American programs that address perennial challenges such as famine and food insecurity, poverty and essential support to millions of people displaced every year either by conflict or natural disaster. Slashing U.S. funding for humanitarian response affects those most in need of U.S. help and undermines the historic leadership role of the United States in responding to global crises.

“If these programs are cut, we are putting millions of lives at risk – men, women and children in the Horn of Africa who continue their life and death struggle with a severe drought, hundreds of thousands of victims of conflict in Sudan, and millions at risk from a growing drought in the Sahel, just to name a few.

“We recognize that the U.S. budget is under considerable strain, but foreign assistance makes up a negligible amount - less than 1 percent of the total U.S. budget. While these cuts significantly reduce our ability to help the world’s poorest people, they do virtually nothing to put a dent in the nation’s deficit. Taxpayer dollars could be better saved by making aid programs more effective and efficient than wholesale cutting of assistance programs that are proven to save lives.

“If the U.S. wants to maintain its position as a leader on the world stage, it must not scale back efforts to provide critical humanitarian aid that helps those most in need. We urge leaders in Congress to restore these accounts to more robust levels as they consider the President’s budget request.”

Although the overall FY 2013 foreign aid budget request was increased by 2 percent from last year; the humanitarian account that oversees programs such as international disaster relief, food aid and refugee and migration assistance saw a decreased request in funding levels. Food aid, in particular, took a significant hit with a request for just under $1.4B, nearly $300 million below the President’s request just a year ago. International disaster assistance decreased by 2% ($15 million) and refugee and migration assistance decreased by 13% ($250 million).