The President’s Budget Proposal: A Disaster for Humanitarian and Development Funding

Photo: Lys Arango for Action Against Hunger, Senegal
Photo: Lys Arango for Action Against Hunger, Senegal

This week, the Trump Administration released its full budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 (following the release of its more basic “skinny budget” in March) and, unfortunately, it is disastrous news for development and humanitarian programs that provide food, water, assistance, and hope to millions of vulnerable people around the world. 

The budget proposal recommends slashing the overall international affairs budget by 32 percent from last year. Humanitarian assistance would be cut drastically—by 44 percent—a devastating prospect at a time when the world is facing the possibility of four simultaneous famines, with 20 million people at risk of starvation. Such dramatic cuts to the international affairs budget would potentially deprive many severely malnourished children of lifesaving treatment and leave victims of conflict and disaster without shelter, clean water, food, and emergency health care.

The broad-based Development Assistance account—whose aim is to reduce global poverty by funding programming focusing on education, clean water, growing nutritious food, supporting good government, responding to climate change, and more—would be eliminated, with selected countries and programs being moved into a newly created “Economic Support and Development Fund.” Which countries and programs will still receive US support? Instead of selecting them by the communities who need help the most, decisions on the programs that make the cut could be made through the lens of perceived US interests.

Many specific programs important to Action Against Hunger’s work would be negatively impacted by the budget proposal. For example:

  • Food for Peace (FFP), the country’s primary food aid program, would be eliminated. Emergency Food for Peace funding would instead be moved into the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) account, but this would not include FFP funding used for development, non-emergency purposes. Furthermore, IDA would also be drastically cut, from $4.4 billion to $2.5 billion.
  • The nutrition budget account would be reduced from $125 million to $78.5 million. 
  • Maternal and child health would be reduced to $749 million, a cut of $64 million from last year.

All these proposed cuts would have a profound and harmful impact on development and humanitarian assistance and America’s ability to help the world’s neediest people.

But, there’s still reason for optimism. The President’s budget is a non-binding blueprint which lays out the administration’s vision of what the government should do—a proposal with no legal authority. Congress is responsible for crafting the budget, and the good news is: many members of both parties, in both houses of Congress, have already spoken out strongly against the President’s budget and its proposed cuts. There is general consensus in Washington that the budget will not pass in its current form, and a hope that Congress will create a very different-looking budget that that provides sufficient funding for food security, nutrition, water/sanitation/hygiene, and humanitarian response.

Last month, Congress demonstrated its strong support for international development budget in the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations bill. Action Against Hunger appreciates this support, and we urge both the House and Senate to draft appropriations bills to continue to fund the State Department and USAID at robust levels, and to preserve the humanitarian and development funding that is critical to our work and America’s global leadership—the lives, well-beings, and futures of millions of people around the world depend on it. 

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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.