Obama budget treads water in fight against global poverty

By Ben Grossman-Cohen

Washington, DC – President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request maintains flat funding for poverty focused foreign assistance, keeping the US treading water in the fight against global poverty, said Oxfam America. Even in a tight fiscal climate, cuts to aid risk undermining effective programs that protect our security, save lives and bring hope to the two billion people struggling to survive on less than $2 per day.

“The Obama administration is holding the line, showing a commitment to the most effective and efficient tools we have to fight poverty and injustice around the world,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.  “But with one in seven people struggling to find their next meal and new humanitarian crises that threaten US security emerging all the time, holding the line is not enough.  What might seem smart in the logic of Washington politics falls short in meeting the challenges of our world.”

As President Obama releases his budget a new food crisis is emerging in the Sahel region of Africa where an estimated 7 million people will be food-insecure in the coming months. In a “normal” year in the Sahel 300,000 children die from malnutrition-related causes. As Congress debates dollar figures, child malnutrition rates are expected to deteriorate with more than 1.5 million children under five in the region becoming exposed to acute malnutrition over the next year.

“The budget tries to make the best of a bad situation.  It further advances reforms which began under President George W. Bush, to make aid more effective,” said Offenheiser.  “Defunding aid has minimal cost-savings, puts the livelihoods of poor people at further risk and will cost the US more in the long term because it breeds conflict and instability.  Aid is not charity; it is an investment in sustainable and equitable economic growth that will reap rewards for taxpayers and poor people alike. ”

Poverty focused aid is already less than 1 percent of the federal budget. This funding is vital to demonstrating our humanitarian values, protecting our national security and strengthening the global economy. When development works well, poor countries become less reliant on aid, and people have an opportunity to lead healthier, more secure and stable lives.

“Cuts to the President’s budget will have no impact in reducing the US deficit overall and will only add more risks to our security and hardship to the lives of those poor people we are trying to help,” said Offenheiser.  “The only responsible course is for Congress to, at a minimum, fund the President’s request.”

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