How U.S. budget cuts affect the poor

The International Affairs Budget (which is just 1.4 percent of the total federal budget) provides critical, life-saving assistance to combat extreme poverty, hunger, AIDS, malaria and much more. But devastating and disproportionate cuts have been proposed that literally threaten lives of the poor and vulnerable.

By Kelsey Shue, World Vision U.S.
Published July 29, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

While the debt ceiling debate and immediate budget battle has been resolved for the time being, the debate on how to implement specific cuts is yet to come. However, in the developing world, a different crisis continues, where lives are literally at stake.

One meal a day

Amidst the dirt and noise of a quarry in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 11-year-old Aaron Ngandwe digs through dirt and gravel, piled 10 to 15 feet high. Ngandwe's job is to search for quality rocks to sell. If a buyer comes, Ngandwe will earn nearly $2.20 toward the family's one meal a day.

Life-saving programs on the chopping block

For 50 years, the U.S. government has been a leader in providing aid to families in developing countries, like Ngandwe's. In fact, BBC News reported that in 2005, the United States donated twice as much foreign aid than any other country.

The International Affairs Budget accounts for just 1.4 percent of the federal budget. Robert Zachritz, director of government relations at World Vision, says that in FY2011, the International Affairs Budget took a disproportionate 20 percent of the cuts made to the overall federal budget.

Again in early June, the House of Representatives suggested cutting the federal budget for international food aid by $650 million, a 50-percent reduction from the average level of food aid over the past ten years. If passed, some 1,625,000 people — roughly the population of Phoenix, Arizona — would be affected.

A moral issue

Zachritz says that the International Affairs Budget should be protected from such lopsided cuts.

"The International Affairs Budget should not be cut disproportionately to other accounts," said Zachritz. "International affairs programs are cost-effective and save lives. Yes, the budget deficit is a moral issue, but so are the accounts that fund life-saving programs for children."

How you can help 

It's unacceptable to allow more than 1.5 million children, like Ngandwe, to face hunger as a result of further cuts.

Pray for children like Ngandwe who can barely afford one meal a day. Pray that our legislators would recognize the value of the life-saving aid programs and work to protect them from cuts.

Send a message to your members of Congress. Ask them to support the International Affairs Budget and oppose major cuts to this account. There are few places in the U.S. federal budget where dollars translate so directly into lives saved. This account should not be subject to such imbalanced reductions.

Make a one-time gift to our Lifesaving Food and Care Fund. Your donation will help provide food, agricultural training, clean water, medicines, and other essential care to hungry children and families around the world.