Why Foreign Assistance Matters - TODAY is National Action Day!

September 26, 2011

Join activists around the U.S. and tell Congress not to cut life-saving foreign assistance

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. - Matthew 25:35-36

In the first part of this series, we reflected on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus' story sets a standard for how we should greet those who have been cast on the side of the road by poverty and violence. The famine and drought that continues to devastate the Horn of Africa is just one stark reminder that we must support those in need of life-sustaining food and support.

This week, we have a chance to act on behalf of those in need. Faith-based and secular grassroots activists across the U.S. are joining forces to ensure that the phones of their representatives and senators are ringing with a single, unified message: Protect funding for life-saving poverty-focused foreign assistance.

U.S. poverty-focused foreign assistance helps save and sustain millions of lives around the world, including Episcopal Church global partners and members of our companion dioceses in need of basic food, water, and medical care. Jesus calls us to support and walk with our impoverished sisters and brothers around the world, and advocating against deep cuts to federal poverty-focused foreign assistance is one important way for us to heed that call.

Poverty-focused foreign assistance currently represents less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget, but has a huge impact on the world's most vulnerable communities, including:






  • Feeding 46.5 million of the world's most vulnerable people and children through P.L. 480 Food Aid, and 5 million school children through the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program;
  • Preventing more than 114,000 infants from being born with HIV;
  • Delivering life-saving antiretroviral treatment to nearly 4 million Africans, mostly through PEPFAR and Global Fund;
  • Saving 3 million lives through USAID's immunization programs;
  • Bringing 1.3 billion people with safe drinking water sources over the last decade.

Despite the small proportion of the federal budget and huge life-saving outcomes, poverty-focused foreign assistance is often the target for disproportionate cuts. Last year, international assistance programs bore nearly 20% of the total cuts to the budget and lost nearly 18% of their funding. Today, these programs face the possibility of even deeper, disproportionate cuts.

Congress is currently in the process of making budget decisions that will have short- and long-term impacts on millions of lives around the world. The House and the Senate must agree this week on a budget for the next fiscal year (FY 2012), including funding for important poverty-focused foreign assistance. This year is particularly important because the funding levels for FY 2012 will become the template for decisions about how much we invest in poverty-focused programs for the next decade. The poor and vulnerable around the world don't have a DC lobby firm, and unless Congress hears from you, poverty-focused foreign assistance could be slashed further as Congress decides which accounts to cut in order to comply with the new spending limits.

Support this effort by calling your Senators and Representative this week. This is easy (you can follow our script below) and it only takes a few minutes. Call the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) and ask for your member of Congress or click here to look them up.

Sample Call Script

Please feel free to add any powerful facts you want to share.

Hi, my name is _____, and I'm an Episcopalian in your [district/state]. I'm calling to ask [Rep./Sen.'s name] to oppose cuts to poverty-focused foreign assistance. I'm a member of [name your home congregation's name].

The U.S. spends less than 1% on poverty-focused foreign assistance — but this funding saves lives and protects our national security. Reducing funding for these programs won't do anything for our national deficit, but it will have a tragic impact on life-improving and life-saving programs. By making small investments to give people the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty, we are saving lives, protecting our national security, and helping to ensure our economic future. This important funding should not be disproportionally cut in the final FY 2012 budget.

Please take my name and address so I can hear back from [Rep./Sen.'s name] on whether he/she takes action to protect poverty-focused foreign aid. Thank you.