Congressional Budget Brings Good News for Hungry People Around the World

Photo: Samuel Hauenstein Swan for Action Against Hunger, Central African Republic
Photo: Samuel Hauenstein Swan for Action Against Hunger, Central African Republic

Congress has reached an agreement on a budget to fund the U.S. government through the rest of Fiscal Year 2017, and it offers welcome news for millions of people suffering from hunger around the globe. On top of regular funding for food security and nutrition programs, this year’s budget includes an important addition that Action Against Hunger advocated for: $990 million to fight famine. 

The extra funds come at a crucial time: famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan, and the imminent risk of famine looms in Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. As Action Against Hunger and other humanitarian organizations race to help the nearly 20 million people facing the threat of starvation, this funding boost is essential to save lives before it’s too late. We are thrilled that Congress acted swiftly to recognize and respond to these urgent crises, and we are grateful to our congressional champions and fellow advocates who fought to make hunger a priority.

Elsewhere in the budget, most international development and humanitarian funding in the newly-released “omnibus” appropriations bill has either increased slightly or remained level—not the worst outcome in a difficult fiscal climate. The bill funds State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programming at $53 billion, a little more than the amount allocated last year for international affairs funding. Below are some specifics about how programs dedicated to nutrition, food security, and clean water fared in the agreement:

  • The overall Development Assistance account—which fuels programs around the world designed to reduce poverty, support education, improve agricultural production, and a whole lot more—is funded at $2.99 billion, up $214 million from last fiscal year. 
  • The International Disaster Assistance account—which helps save lives in the wake of disasters like earthquakes, conflicts, and floods—is funded at $3.812 billion, including the $990 million specifically designated to fight famine mentioned above. 
  • The U.S. Government’s food aid program, known as Food for Peace, is funded at $1.6 billion. While this is $112 million less than last year, it represents the higher funding level available at the negotiating table: in their bill, the House of Representatives had originally proposed lower funding.  
  • Many “accounts”—the amounts set aside to pay for specific sets of programming around the world—have the same funding levels as last fiscal year: Global Health remains funded at $8.7 billion; Nutrition at $125 million; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at $400 million; and Maternal/Child Health received $814 million.
  • In his last year in office, Congress passed and President Obama signed legislation that made the U.S. government’s flagship food security initiative a permanent program. Known as Feed the Future, it received approximately $1 billion, the same funding level as FY16.

All of this is relatively good news. However, another budget fight is just around the corner: the 2017 fiscal year ends in September, and we remain very concerned about the White House’s “skinny budget” proposal for FY18, which includes sharp funding cuts for the State Department and USAID.  

As Congress looks toward the fall and begins the process of drafting its own FY18 funding legislation, we urge lawmakers to reject sharp cuts to critical humanitarian and development accounts, and instead fund them as robustly as possible. The lives of millions of people are at stake; the United States cannot step back from its leadership role in the global fight against hunger and malnutrition. A world suffering from multiple massive humanitarian and hunger crises demands that we do more, not less.

 

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About Melissa Kaplan

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Melissa serves as an Advocacy Officer for Action Against Hunger, based in Washington, D.C. She advocates key policymakers to provide strong funding and awareness of nutrition, food security, and water, sanitation, and hygiene issues.