USAID chief makes case for international aid

Dr. Raj Shah, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, explains the life-saving results of foreign aid and calls on the American church to engage, while visiting World Vision Headquarters.

By Shawna Templeton, World Vision U.S. Photo by Abbey Metty, World Vision U.S.
Published October 18, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

During a visit to World Vision’s U.S. headquarters in Federal Way, Washington, USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah urged Americans and the American church community to be voices of innovation, change, knowledge, and advocacy so that the United States can continue to be a leader in bringing relief and development aid to those suffering from poverty around the globe.

‘We have to fight for this work’

Noting the current federal budget challenges and threats to cut funding for international development programs by up to 50 percent, Shah said that “we have to fight for this work.”

The International Affairs Budget, which funds U.S. international aid programs, makes it possible for the United States to contribute to the global fight against hunger, extreme poverty, and disease, especially among children.

At just 1 percent of the federal budget, this small but very effective budget item makes the United States a leader when it comes to international aid. For example, 53 percent of the global relief for the Horn of Africa drought is from the United States.

In an effort to advocate for preservation of the International Affairs Budget, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., recently sent a letter to all members of Congress, urging them to “oppose disproportionate cuts to global poverty-related programs within the International Affairs account.”

World Vision also partners with other international relief and development organizations to jointly lobby for the protection of these life-saving programs.

Aid is critical to U.S. security

Shah explained that international relief and development is central and critical to U.S. national security.

He mentioned regions of conflict and instability, such as Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Southern Sudan, and Central America. “These are problems we can either deal with through smart-focused investments that generate results — that keep us safe — or deal with their consequences later, which will be far, far more costly and may require military engagement,” he said.

“Secretary [Robert] Gates…said it best when he said it’s cheaper to do development than to send soldiers.”

Public perception a barrier

Dr. Raj Shah was sworn in as USAID Administrator on December 31, 2009.The administrator noted that one major challenge is the misperception that the United States spends 20 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid.

“In fact, we spend less than 1 percent on foreign aid, and for that 1 percent, we get hundreds of thousands of lives saved,” said Shah.

The public also needs to see that aid works, he added. “We need to do our work in a way that engages more Americans,” said Shah.

"We know now how to move beyond these conditions of poverty,” said Shah. For example, he said, it is possible and even likely that malaria can be eradicated within seven to 10 years.

The administrator is calling on fellow Americans to help change this perception and be advocates for aid. “We need your voice to be part of our mission,” said Shah.

Read more

Read an opion piece on the foreign aid debate by World Vision president, Richard Stearns, printed in the Huffington Post.

Three ways you can help

Pray for Administrator Shah and other U.S. government officials who make critical decisions that impact the lives of families in poverty around the world.  Pray that members of Congress would recognize the value of international aid and protect it from drastic and disproportionate cuts.

Contact your members of Congress. Ask Congress 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 so directly translate into lives saved.

Sponsor a child today. When you show your love and support for a boy or girl in need, you not only change the life of that child, but you also help lift an entire community out of poverty.