Last week, after a six-month delay, the Senate and House of Representatives finally released and voted to approve an “omnibus” budget bill, which will provide funding for the government through September 2018. The bill contains plenty of good news for Action Against Hunger’s development and humanitarian work to help hungry people around the world.
The most significant takeaway: Congress has solidly rejected the sharp cuts to development and humanitarian assistance proposed by the President’s budget request back in spring of 2017. At a time when humanitarian and food security crises impact hundreds of millions of people around the globe, America needs to do more, not less, to address these issues, so the funding provided in this bill is very welcome news.
In the omnibus bill, a total of $54 billion was provided for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This is a slight decrease from last year’s amount of $57.5 billion; however, major cuts of roughly one-third proposed by the Administration last year in the President’s budget request were rejected.
Here are how some key accounts relating to Action Against Hunger’s work in food security, nutrition, water and sanitation, and humanitarian response fared in the budget:
- The U.S. government’s food aid program, Food for Peace (FFP), is funded at $1.716 billion — a slight increase over FY17’s budgeted $1.6 billion level. Last year, Congress also recognized the severity of famine threats in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, and authorized the release of an additional $300 million for FFP, for a total spend of $1.9 billion. The increased funding is great news, as this number is higher than either the House or Senate included in their original appropriations bills, and the President’s budget had proposed to eliminate the food aid program entirely.
- Nutrition receives $125 million, the same level as FY17. Congress maintained this level and rejected proposed cuts to the nutrition account by the administration.
- Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) receives $400 million, the same level as last year.
- Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s flagship food security program, also got the same level of funding as last year — $1.06 billion.
- Maternal and Child Health was given $829.5 million, up slightly from $814.5 million.
- The International Disaster Assistance account, which is used to respond to humanitarian crises around the globe and helps save lives in the wake of disasters like earthquakes, conflicts, and floods, was funded at $4.3 billion — a slight drop from $4.427 billion in FY17, but much better than the proposed House bill level (which represented a 36 percent cut) or the Senate bill level (a 29 percent cut).
- The Development Assistance account, which funds programs around the world designed to reduce poverty, support education, improve agricultural production, and much more, was funded at $3 billion (a slight increase from $2.995 billion in FY17).
These funding levels are good news for the communities Action Against Hunger serves around the world, as a significant percentage of our program funding comes from USAID. In Nigeria, for example, we are using USAID funding to help provide emergency assistance in the form of cash and food vouchers to help people provide for themselves and their families . In South Sudan, USAID funding helped Action Against Hunger treat more than 18,000 children in therapeutic feeding programs and reach 150,000 people with projects to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene last year.
In a challenging fiscal climate, and in the face of sharp proposed cuts by the White House to development and humanitarian programming, this bill represents a definite victory — for advocates who have worked to ensure strong funding for the international affairs budget; for all of you who have reached out to let your Members of Congress know you care about these issues; and most of all, for people living in poverty around the globe, millions of whom will benefit from the funding for food security, nutrition, development, disaster assistance, and water and sanitation that Congress has delivered in this bill.
Action Against Hunger thanks both the House and Senate for the solid funding levels for international development and humanitarian assistance in the omnibus bill, and for ensuring that millions of people we work with across the world can look forward to a brighter future.