World Food Program USA’s Statement on the President’s FY18 Budget

Published March 16, 2017

Washington, D.C.—The release of the President’s FY18 budget provides an opportunity to highlight the critical importance of longstanding U.S. leadership in the fight to end global hunger. Few issues have brought together consecutive Administrations, Congresses and the American people more than the effort to ensure that no child suffers from hunger. This is driven by an understanding that overcoming global food insecurity is not only the right thing to do, but it is the smart thing to do. Solving hunger contributes to a stronger, more prosperous and secure world.

Today we are facing a critical moment in that fight. Never before have so many people been displaced by conflict and natural disasters. More than 65 million people are displaced by violence, conflict and persecution and each year extreme weather displaces 22.5 million more. Last month, famine was officially declared in parts of South Sudan as famine looms in three other nations affected by violence and natural disaster: Yemen, Somalia and northeast Nigeria. Approximately 70 million people will require emergency food assistance this year. The severity of the global humanitarian situation is unprecedented.

Without continued support and leadership, chronic food insecurity in these countries will have long-term impacts on their ability to rebound from crisis, allowing localized crises to spill over beyond borders, affecting regional and global security. Hunger is the most extreme manifestation of poverty. Food is fundamental to life and when denied the ability to feed themselves or their families, people turn to extreme measures to ensure their survival.

Recognizing the moral, economic and national security implications of global food insecurity, the U.S. has historically provided funding for programs serving as the last line of defense between a hungry family and starvation, including the Food For Peace program (Title II), the Emergency Food Security Program (EFSP), and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. With support from Congress and the Executive Branch, more than 4 billion people have benefited from U.S. food assistance since the office of Food For Peace was established by President Eisenhower more than 50 years ago. In FY15 alone, these programs served 36 million people in 43 countries with crops grown by U.S. farmers.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the U.S. government’s largest partner in the delivery of this life-saving food assistance. The U.S. was a founder of WFP in 1961, and is consistently the largest single contributor to the organization. This year, the U.S. provided 24% of WFP’s total needs of $8.6 billion. With continued leadership from the U.S, and increased contributions from donors in Europe and the Middle East, WFP was able to reach 76 million of the world’s most vulnerable people across 81 countries with life-saving food assistance in 2015. While burden-sharing has increased, funding has not kept pace with growing need.

These are not abstract numbers. Actual human lives hang in the balance. Any reduction in support for these programs will affect the world’s most vulnerable—mainly women and children, who make up over 80% of the people helped by agencies like WFP. This includes women like the mother in South Sudan who walked for two months with her child strapped to her back to find safety and the Syrian woman living in a tent in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley who ties scarves around her children’s bellies to stop the hunger pangs. When adequate funding for food assistance is not provided, families like this resort to negative coping strategies like selling off productive assets, going days—sometimes a full week—without food, pulling children out of school to work, or marrying daughters off at a young age to have one less mouth to feed.

One life-changing program proposed for elimination within the President’s Budget is the McGovern-Dole school feeding program. The McGovern-Dole program provides a transformative link between education and food security in the world’s poorest countries, reaching almost 3 million children each year. The promise of a nutritious meal increases school enrollment and attendance, improves academic performance and can be quickly used to ramp up food assistance during emergencies by sending additional food rations home with students. This is especially beneficial for girls in low-income countries who often face unique barriers to education and nutrition. Parents often keep girls at home to care for relatives and girls are often the last to eat when there is limited food at home. Sometimes the only food a child will eat that day, a McGovern-Dole meal delivers hope and opportunity in places where both are hard to come by.

U.S. leadership in the fight against global hunger has always represented the best of who we are—and the world needs nothing but our best right now.

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