Humanitarian Group Voices Concern Over Budget Cuts

Ezekiel Batista, a missionary in Haiti from the Cuban Council of Churches, delivers a Church World Service blanket and hygiene kit to a disabled boy who survived Haiti's January 12 earthquake. (Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance)

Global charity group Church World Service (CWS) has voiced grave concern over federal budget cuts under deliberation this week in the House of Representatives that "threaten to eviscerate" U.S. funding for humanitarian global assistance.

The proposed cuts, which were unveiled by members of Congress last week, include a 41 percent cut to Development Assistance, which includes funding for bi-lateral U.S. agriculture and food security assistance as well as other programs designed to assist children and adults in overcoming poverty. Humanitarian operations that would be dramatically affected by the cuts include programs in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, and Yemen, among others.

Should they be approved, the budget cuts would be the deepest to the international affairs budget since the end of World War II.

According to CWS Executive Director John L. McCullough, the minimal amount of money that the reductions would save is not enough to justify the cuts.

"The minimal savings that would result from the proposed 45 percent cut in Migration and Refugee Assistance or the proposed 67 percent cut in International Disaster Assistance are not worth the loss of life, human suffering, and destabilizing impact of discontinuing programs that provide emergency health, safe shelter, and clean water for millions of survivors of conflicts, human rights abuses, and natural disasters worldwide," McCullough said in a letter delivered to key House leaders and appropriators yesterday.

McCullough added that "investing in foreign assistance now shows compassionate global leadership," and that enacting such drastic budget cuts would "harm American long-term interests by reducing support for programs that promote a more secure and stable world."

McCullough's views were shared by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who said on Monday that Congress' proposed budget would be "devastating" to national security interests, although the State Department's own budget also slashes U.S. aid spending in nearly 30 countries.

Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, have shown no indication that they plan to change their proposed cuts.

Humanitarian aid represents about 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget, although a survey last year showed that most Americans think that it represents nearly 25 percent of the budget.

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