Speaking before the House Agriculture Committee on June 7, 2017, Margaret Schüler, senior vice president for World Vision’s international programs group, said proposed funding changes to U.S. Government food aid will have “life-or-death consequences for the poorest people in the world” and will threaten America’s safety and security.
Here is the text of her address:
The Next Farm Bill: The Future of International Food Aid and Agriculture Development
Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Peterson, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today on U.S. international food aid programs. Your continued leadership and focus on these programs is critical, especially noting the unprecedented level of famine and near famine-like conditions currently present in four countries.
My name is Margaret Schuler and I am the Senior Vice-President for International Programs with World Vision. Prior to assuming this position last month, I served as the Regional Vice President for World Vision in East Africa – a region currently in the grips of one of its worst food crises in decades.
East Africa’s hunger emergency
I have been on the ground in places like South Sudan, where millions of vulnerable people – mostly women and children – are in a day-to-day fight for survival. These are lives turned upside-down by violence and who fled searching for safety. In many cases, families watched their children die along the way, but once they reached their destination, it was often generous food assistance from the U.S. Government that allowed their remaining children to survive. As a mother, these stories break my heart, yet, I feel a sense of hope for the future when people can access the valuable nutrition they require – oftentimes renewing their dignity and hope for the future. After all – wanting your children to be healthy and thrive is one of the great equalizers in this world.
Days before I left East Africa, I declared a multi-country hunger emergency at World Vision’s highest level of alert. Today, 25 million people are at significant risk in four countries of the region: Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
Famine relief is vital
As we respond to these crises in East Africa and around the world, World Vision remains grateful for the support of the U.S. Government to address global hunger needs, including the additional funding provided through the FY 2017 omnibus for emergency famine relief.
However, as we look to FY 2018 and the Administration’s recent budget proposal, we remain deeply concerned by the recommendations to zero out funding for both the Food for Peace program and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program. Famines don’t recognize fiscal years. We must do everything we can in the moment to keep pace with increased and growing needs both in humanitarian and development settings, and therefore, we urge Congress to continue to robustly fund Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole.
Food assistance benefits U.S. and global interests
Food security programming builds more prosperous and stable societies and is fundamentally aligned with America’s role as a global leader. These programs are essential to shaping a world where our national interests will thrive. Proposals to eliminate funding for these critical accounts will have life-and-death consequences for the poorest people in the world and will threaten America’s own safety and security in the process.
While we continue to advocate for strong funding, we also stand as ready partners to improve foreign assistance so it saves more lives and uses taxpayer dollars wisely. Therefore, World Vision recommends the following measures in the upcoming Farm Bill:
ONE: Continuing this Committee’s strong support for the multi-year, multi-sector funding of the Development Food Security Activities, including a minimum of at least $350 million each fiscal year. I have personally been involved with these Title II development programs for almost 20 years. I cannot overstate how important they are to millions of people. We view this “safe box” programming as critical in our efforts to help countries tackle the root causes of poverty by putting people on the path to self-reliance. World Vision acknowledges the critical need for emergency food aid this year, but we also believe funding for these long-term development programs must remain a priority in the next Farm Bill, as they help to prevent and mitigate future food emergencies and the need for emergency assistance;
TWO: Eliminating the minimum monetization requirement under the Food for Peace Program and support use of the Community Development Fund and 202e funding within Food for Peace non-emergency, development programs;
THREE: Continuing to provide food aid implementers discretion in using various food aid modalities including cash transfers, vouchers, and local and regional procurement in addition to U.S. sourced commodities.
FOUR: Affirming the Food for Peace strategy of focusing on host country government reform which addresses root causes of poverty and food insecurity by helping people hold their own governments accountable to spend US assistance and domestic resources effectively and make it sustainable. This point is further addressed in my written testimony which highlights World Vision’s Development Food Security Activity in Bangladesh.
Food assistance is effective
Lastly, I want to reiterate that your leadership counts. We have made tremendous progress in our fight against hunger, and because of that effort, the number of hungry people has dropped by 200 million since 1992.
Thank you again for allowing me to testify today. Food assistance programs are some of the most effective programs when measured by the number of people helped per U.S. dollar spent and we cannot walk away from the poorest and most vulnerable by eliminating life-saving programs. I would be happy to answer any questions you have. Thank you.
World Vision & food assistance
- World Vision reaches 9.5 million hungry people with assistance annually in 39 countries.
- Its annual $375 million global portfolio includes food, cash, and voucher-based programming.
- Since 2012, World Vision has implemented food assistance cash programs in 29 countries throughout Sub Saharan Africa, Asia, Middle East and Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
- In FY 2015, World Vision provided 32 per cent of its food assistance and 25 percent of its multi-sector humanitarian assistance as cash programs.
Watch the full committee hearing here
Photo: In drought-stricken Turkana, Kenya, a food distribution includes maize and cans of cooking oil. World Vision also helps families improve their farming techniques. ©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren