Americans are increasingly feeling the impact of the global financial crisis in their lives, and lawmakers are working to bring relief to those who need it. Comparatively little discussion, however, is focusing on the crisis's effect on those living in the world's poorest countries. Did you know that the World Bank estimates the economic crisis will push nearly 50 million new people into deadly poverty and cause child-mortality rates in the world's poorest countries to rise by up-to four percent?
Even though poverty-focused foreign aid represents only a tiny fraction of the U.S. budget - (less than one percent), the U.S. government is still the world's largest financial contributor to the fight against global poverty. It saves millions of lives each year. It puts children in school, helps women start businesses to provide for their families, prevents the spread of malaria and HIV, and assists farmers working to improve their crops local economies.
Our nation's current system of foreign aid was created in 1961 for a world facing vastly different challenges. The present system (which now encompasses 12 different cabinet departments!) needs to be restructured in order to meet both greater need and reduced financial resources. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign last year: "It has become clear that America's civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and under-funded for far too long - relative to what we spend on the military, and more important, relative to the responsibilities and challenges our nation has around the world."
At a time when Americans want to be sure our government is spending every tax dollar as efficiently as possible, a redesigned and updated system of foreign assistance would reduce waste, promote accountability, and save more lives around the world. That's why the Episcopal Church is working with dozens of other partners in Washington, members of Congress and the new Administration to reform and streamline foreign aid and place the fight against deadly poverty at the center of U.S. foreign policy. To learn more about how it would work and why it's necessary in view of our world's current economic crisis, click here.
Lenten Discipline: Advocate, Learn and Pray
Advocate: Congress is in the early stages of reviewing the foreign aid. Click here to send your lawmakers a message telling them why updating the U.S. foreign assistance system is necessary to save lives around the world.
Learn and Pray: Sign up to receive daily Lenten meditations via email from Episcopal Relief & Development. (ERD is the development wing of the Episcopal Church and one of many faith-based institutions that partners with the U.S. government in disbursing our nation's foreign aid.) Use the meditations each day alone, or with your family or friends, to learn more about the work of Episcopal Relief & Development, and endeavor to share it with others.