Why Foreign Assistance Matters for Episcopal Relief & Development

October 11, 2011

This three-part series on the importance of Foreign Assistance began with a parable of a single Samaritan who transcended cultural boundaries and personal gain to save another's life. This final installment focuses on the power of partnership when governments and churches come together to save millions of lives from deadly pandemics that plague impoverished countries.

Malaria is a deadly yet preventable tropical disease that infects 247 million people each year—90% of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa—and kills nearly one million each year, predominantly children. As researchers look for a vaccine that eliminates malaria, mosquito nets are simple, inexpensive solutions that significantly minimize the spread and save lives.

The Episcopal Church has a unique and unparalleled capacity to deliver anti-malaria mosquito nets and other simple, live-saving solutions to communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2006, Episcopal Relief & Development's program partnership, NetsforLife®, has delivered more than 4.8 million mosquito nets and trainings in 17 sub-Saharan African countries. NetsforLife®'s current phase aims to distribute 7 million nets by next year. The program also mobilizes communities and brings health education to its members.

Episcopal churches in the United States maintain over 116 active companion partnerships with congregations abroad. These Anglican partnerships are among the many ways in which NetsforLife® extends its humanitarian services far beyond larger cities and towns to the "end of the road," reaching remote, rural locations where other NGOs are unable or unwilling to go.

The U.S. government has identified churches' unique and unparalleled capacity to deliver effective, informed, widespread services to communities in need. Because its global reach and local companion partnerships contribute to making Episcopal Relief & Development programs uniquely effective, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides significant grants to support NetsforLife® and other programs.

Fighting malaria is a principal component of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000 by leaders in 191 countries. At a time when the vast majority of those in developing countries say that MDG implementation needs to take better account of local contexts and represent a more open, participative processes that incorporates the perspectives of people living in poverty, it is more clear than ever that NetsforLife® and other development initiatives that build local relationships with diverse populations must be the model for effective humanitarian assistance and global development.

Unfortunately, of the needed $6 billion that the United Nations predicted would eliminate malaria, only $2 billion has been pledged. And THIS WEEK, Congress will consider proposals that cut the U.S. federal budgets that fund programs like NetsforLife® to their lowest levels in decades.

The looming deficit reduction measures mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 currently under rapid negotiation will dictate funding levels for these poverty-focused foreign assistance accounts for the next decade. These budgets already absorbed 20% of federal budget cuts in fiscal year 2011 and an additional $8 billion in cuts this spring, and have now become a primary target for further cuts that would incapacitate poverty-focused assistance. These cuts would likely hamper NetsforLife® and the countless other humanitarian and development programs in which the United States government has invested.

Tell your senators and representative to support strong and effective life-saving programs by avoiding further deep, disproportionate cuts to poverty-focused development assistance. Remind them that the Episcopal Church is committed to delivering anti-malaria mosquito nets and other simple solutions that save lives, but that Episcopal Relief & Development relies on the support of these International Affairs accounts. Tell them that the federal budget cannot and must not be balanced on the backs of the world's most valuable populations and at the expense of our most essential priorities as Christians.