WASHINGTON, DC – International relief and development organization Oxfam America kicked off a new public effort today urging Congress not to cut life-saving programs that fight poverty and hunger. The push includes a substantial ad buy in the District of Columbia, lobby visits and more than 300 events across the country timed with World Food Day.
“Americans know that the most successful aid programs are the ones that don’t just give people stuff, but rather help them help themselves,” said Paul O’Brien, vice-president for campaigns and advocacy for Oxfam America. “But these are precisely the programs that are facing dangerous cuts, pulling the rug from under our partners in the fight against poverty.”
The hard-hitting ads were featured today in Roll Call, Congress Quarterly, Politico and National Journal, will continue through the month in the same publications and in the Economist, and be supplemented by an aggressive series of billboard ads in National Airport during the peak travel month of November. The ads showcase a few of the recipients of US foreign aid, highlighting the measurable impact that can be achieved in the fight against poverty when the US partners with local people. Oxfam America, however, does not accept funding from US government sources.
The ads feature Jose Ordoñez, a Honduran corn farmer who struggled to feed his family but then learned how to grow more profitable crops like papaya. And Kim Nay Heang, a Cambodian entrepreneur who learned how to transform her household fishpond into a profitable business venture, allowing her family to survive a spike in food prices. And Jacqueline Morette, a Haitian farmer who co-founded an organization that helps poor women farmers grow more food and reach new markets to sell their products.
“People like Jose, Kim and Jacqueline couldn’t have succeeded without the partnership of the American people, said O’Brien. “And since they don’t have well-heeled insider lobbyists fighting for their interests with the Super Committee, we felt that we should amplify their stories in Washington to make sure they are not forgotten.”
The Washington advertising push will be complemented by a series of events across the country, including tabling at more than 70 farmers markets and more than 240 “Sunday Dinner Conversations” to mark World Food Day on Sunday, as part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign.
“Nearly one in seven people will go to bed hungry tonight, not because we do not have enough food to feed everyone, but because of inequality in access to resources and opportunity,” said O’Brien. “Innovative and effective programs such as Feed the Future, are seeking to reverse this trend and build economic opportunity and self-sufficiency for poor farmers, but this and other essential lifesaving programs face debilitating cuts in the Congressional budget negotiations taking place today.”
Although foreign assistance amounts to less than half of one percent of the federal budget, it delivers results and saves millions of lives every year: aid has reduced the number of children who die before their fifth birthday by four million since 1990, put 33 million more children in the classroom, provided urgent humanitarian assistance to tens of millions of people affected by natural disasters and conflicts and increased tenfold the number of people receiving HIV/AIDS medication. It has also increased the production of staple food crops in parts of sub-Saharan Africa by 400%, helping feed the most vulnerable in the region.
Despite these successes, some in Congress are targeting the small amount of funding that goes towards foreign aid investments for deep cuts that will disrupt life-saving programs and dismantle much of the progress the US government has made in recent decades.
“These cuts make the difference between life and death for many of the world’s poor but would not even make a dent in our budget crisis,” said O’Brien. “In this tough economy, Congress shouldn’t be cutting programs that do more with less, it should be strengthening them. And from saving lives to reducing disease, from creating global markets to making the US safe, we know that poverty-focused aid works.”