Sequestration: Budget cuts will cost child lives

World Vision’s president, Richard Stearns, calls on Congress to protect life-saving international assistance funding, saying “the effect of these budget cuts on the world’s poor will be deadly.”

By James Addis, World Vision U.S.
Published March 27, 2013 at 12:00am PDT

Sequestration budget cuts on foreign assistance programs will take a toll on the world’s poor, says Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S.

Budget cuts ‘deadly’

“Not all cuts are created equal. Obama may have exaggerated the significance of the sequestration on the federal workforce, but the effect of these budget cuts on the world’s poor will be deadly,” said Richard.

Richard made the comments last week in an opinion piece in The Hill newspaper.

The sequestration cuts came into force March 1 after Congress failed to reach a deal to reduce the U.S. federal deficit.

In response, President Barack Obama ordered federal spending cuts of $85 billion.

Aid programs to take huge hit

International aid programs that reduce extreme poverty and provide life-saving assistance are being cut by about 5.3 percent.

Richard said the sequester has fallen disproportionately on foreign assistance, even though these programs amount to just 1 percent of the total federal budget.

Richard added that the United States has had a history of helping the world’s least fortunate, and as such, the U.S. budget should reflect those values.

“While cutting these programs will do very little to reduce the deficit, they will mean 2.1 million people will lose food aid,”he said. “More than half a million children will lose nutritional interventions; 1.2 million people will not receive malaria bed nets, causing approximately 3,200 deaths; and HIV infections will spread as drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission are cut from 67,200 pregnant women.”

‘Offering a hand up’

He added that foreign assistance programs were not only saving “countless lives,” they were also in the nation’s long-term interest.

“These international programs increase our trading partners, providing new markets for American-made goods. And they reduce the need for expensive wars,” he said.

“Instead of seeing America in the face of a soldier wearing a helmet and holding a rifle, they see America as a friend wearing a baseball cap and offering a hand up.”

In addition to sequestration, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are currently considering long-term budget proposals that could significantly affect global humanitarian programs.

Robert Zachritz, World Vision senior director for advocacy and government relations, says that with all the high-level talk around large budget issues, the organization was working with like-minded organizations to ensure Congress was aware of the dire human cost of cutting foreign aid.

Speak up

Pray that Congress and the president will agree on a deficit reduction plan that protects the most vulnerable, both in the United States and globally.

Contact the president, your two senators, and your member of Congress. Urge them to support a bipartisan agreement that protects international assistance funding.