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  • Writer's pictureDr. Christine M. Sequenzia, MDiv.

FY25 Appropriations Testimony: State, Foriegn Operations and Related Programs


House SFOPS IWGFA Testimony FINAL
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Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance

Testimony to United States House of Representatives

Committee on Appropriations

Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs

May 17, 2024

 

Submitted by Dr. Christine M. Sequenzia, MDiv.

 

Chair, Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance

 

Members of the Committee, I am Dr. Christine Sequenzia, testifying on behalf of the Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance. Please accept my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to submit written testimony advocating for the over 800 million people facing complex crises stemming from conflicts, rising costs of living, covid implications and climate change worldwide. I want to thank Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart and Ranking Member Barbara Lee for your unwavering commitment to strengthening the United States’ role as a leader in both humanitarian assistance and international development programs, honoring the dignity of all, while building flourishing communities. We look forward to continuing to work with you, strengthening bipartisan support for emergency and non-emergency development aid delivery.

 

Founded in 2013, the Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance (IWGFA) is a multifaith coalition of dozens of organizations committed to saving lives and advancing the dignity of vulnerable and marginalized people around the world. We believe that every human being has inherent dignity and should be fulfilled of basic needs such as food, clean water, shelter, education, and the right to live freely. Through data-driven legislative advocacy in support of robust U.S. humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance, we strive to build peace and prosperity in the way we help prevent and respond to global crises. As faith-based organizations, we bring together Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh and other faith voices, standing in solidarity with one another centered around our common value of recognizing and upholding our shared humanity.

 

As the compounding impacts of food price spikes further exacerbate hunger and insecurity, climate change impacts more people, and fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic continues, U.S. government leadership, funding and technical assistance is more vital now than ever before. House Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole released topline numbers this week which would cut the foreign affairs budget to levels unseen in well over a decade which would devastate ongoing United States humanitarian efforts and draw communities further into famine. Conflicts and crises in places such as Israel-Palestine, Ukraine, Sudan, and Haiti have intensified over the past year, and innocent civilians have been the most victimized – particularly those with less ability to express personal agency, like women, children and the elderly.

 

The Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance has been closely monitoring these complex crises leading to hunger and poverty hotspots around the world, and would like to highlight the following areas:

 

·      Sudan – The violence in Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces has doubled the number of internally displaced persons, which now numbers over 7.2 million, and has driven 1.8 million refugeesto bordering nations (IOM).

 

·      Gaza – The number of people facing catastrophic levels of hunger in Gaza has doubled since December, with the northern part of the strip already meeting some of the criteria of a full-blown famine, according to estimates by food insecurity experts. Over 1 million people in Gaza are suffering from starvation. (FEWS-NET)

 

·      Democratic Republic of Congo – In addition to the fighting among different armed groups, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation is occurring in the DRC on a very large scale. There is widespread food insecurity, where 5.5 million people are internally displaced and 1.1 million have become refugees due to ongoing conflicts, according to UNHCR data.

 

·      Horn of Africa – Due to multiple conflicts, the East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes (EHAGL) region is currently hosting 4.99 million refugees, and the region has 11.71 million internally displaced persons (UNHCR).

 

·      Yemen – The ongoing war in Yemen has left 17 million people food insecure, and “3.5 million pregnant/breastfeeding women and children under 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition” (WFP).

 

·      Ukraine, Haiti, and many other conflict-torn nations and territories.

 

We urge the U.S. Congress to scale up humanitarian investments in these and other highly impacted countries/regions, and to continue to fund critical hunger, malnutrition, and poverty-focused programs. While representing less than one percent of the federal budget, these programs provide a strong return on investment to the U.S. taxpayer because they help promote a healthier, more prosperous, and more stable world for everyone. These programs also save lives and work toward enabling children to grow up in healthy stable environments.

 

Specifically, the IWGFA urges members of the subcommittee to prioritize funding in the following appropriations accounts:

 

·       $ 1.8 billion for Food for Peace (Title II). Food for Peace Title II programs provide emergency and long-term development food assistance targeting the most vulnerable populations affected by natural disasters, conflicts, and chronic food insecurity, while strengthening nutrition, water and sanitation services, agricultural productivity, and household income diversification. In 2022, USAID provided commodities such as wheat, split peas, sorghum, and vegetable oil to feed communities affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa, as well as ready-to-use supplemental foods (RUSF) and ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) to treat acute malnutrition in children. According to food security experts, the scale-up of humanitarian assistance—mobilized primarily by the United States—was integral in preventing the onset of famine in parts of Somalia.

 

·       $ 265 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program. McGovern-Dole provides U.S. agricultural commodities as well as financial and technical assistance to low-income, food-insecure countries through establishing school feeding programs for preschool children, while also increasing local access to safe water, improving sanitation, and helping local farmers to bolster sustainable production of nutritious foods. In 2022, thanks to the McGovern-Dole Program, approximately 105,000 children and their families in Sri Lanka received protein-rich take-home rations to cover three months of food needs.

 

·       $ 920 million for the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Programming. The MCH account supports programs aimed at ending preventable maternal and child deaths through strengthening national health systems, treating diarrheal disease, malaria, and pneumonia, improving nutrition and access to safe water and sanitation services, and providing voluntary family planning and immunization support.

 

·       $ 4.21 billion for the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) Program. MRA works to mitigate and resolve conflict-related displacement and support humanitarian action and diplomacy for displaced populations in highly impacted countries/regions such as those mentioned earlier.

 

·       $ 4.85 billion for the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) Program. IDA provides critical humanitarian assistance to civilian populations in response to natural disasters, conflict and insecurity, and other sudden-onset emergencies in their home or host countries.

 

·       $ 1.2 billion for Global Food Security Strategy. Feed the Future is a key U.S. government global hunger and food security initiative. Currently, 20 countries around the world are participating. Feed the Future has helped more than 23 million people escape poverty and more than 5 million families live free from hunger. Congress reauthorized the program in 2022 and provided a moderate increase in funding to $1.2 billion.

 

·       $ 60 million for the Complex Crises Fund (CCF). CCF allows the U.S. government to prevent and respond rapidly to emerging or unforeseen crises in fragile countries at a heightened risk of conflict and instability. Since its inception in 2010, CCF has provided $340 million to emergent crises in 36 countries, allowing for the quick mitigation of crises and ability to address unforeseen needs arising outside of planned programming.

 

·       $ 1 billion for the Green Climate Fund. GCF works in developing countries to lower greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience, including among smallholder farmers through climate-smart agriculture.

 

Please find a list of our full requests for each account below:

 

Appropriations Account Interests                                                       FY25 Request

·      Food for Peace (Title II Funds)                                              $ 1,800,000,000

·      McGovern-Dole                                                                      $ 265,000,000

·      USDA MG-D Local and Regional Procurement                    $ 26,500,000

·      Maternal and Child Health (USAID Account)                       $ 920,000,000

·      Global Nutrition (USAID Account)                                       $ 172,500,000

·      Global Health                                                                         $ 4,638,500,000

·      International Disaster Assistance                                           $ 4,850,000,000

·      Development Assistance                                                        $ 4,770,000,000

·      Global Food Security Strategy                                               $ 1,200,000,000

·      Migration and Refugee Assistance                                         $ 4,210,000,000

·      Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance                     $ 100,000,000

·      Democracy Fund & Human Rights and Democracy Fund    $ 2,900,000,000

·      Complex Crises Fund                                                             $ 60,000,000

·      Green Climate Fund                                                               $ 1,000,000,000

·      Economic Support Fund                                                         $ 4,300,000,000

 

Many of these programs also support human rights, and responsible and effective governance, while addressing complex emergencies and conflicts. These accounts are key to uplifting the lives of millions in poverty and facilitating increased global peace and stability. Any proposed cuts will substantially harm the U.S.’ ability to help those most in need of aid, which will not only roll back decades of progress made on these global issues, but also jeopardize U.S. international standing, national security, and economic opportunities.

 

As faith-based organizations, we stand in solidarity with vulnerable and marginalized populations, centered around our shared humanity and values to uphold one another's humanity. We strive to build peace and prosperity through joint advocacy on U.S. policy and programs related to poverty-focused development assistance, humanitarian aid and crises prevention and response.

 

May God give us all wisdom and guidance at this critical juncture.

 

 

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