U.S. NGOs urge administration and Congress to increase humanitarian funding

News and Press Release
Originally published

WASHINGTON (Feb. 20, 2013) – Current funding levels for Fiscal Year 2013 for international humanitarian assistance are insufficient to meet escalating humanitarian needs, said leading NGOs in letters sent this week to U.S. lawmakers and the administration.

“With more people displaced by conflict around the world than at any other point in the last 15 years, we simply cannot afford to roll back our humanitarian assistance programs now,” said Samuel A. Worthington, president and CEO of InterAction. “As the administration continues to negotiate the continuing resolution and sequestration with Congress, it is critical that humanitarian accounts are not only protected, but increased. Without additional funding, U.S. agencies that oversee humanitarian response may be put in the impossible position of having to choose between saving lives in one country over another,” added Worthington.

Syria continues to descend into chaos, reaching new depths of human suffering as more communities are uprooted and displaced. As of this month, nearly 770,000 people have poured into five neighboring countries, with the total expected to rise to over one million by June. This is up from 70,000 refugees last May.

A strong response to the crisis in Syria is imperative, but doing so further depletes overstretched U.S. humanitarian assistance accounts: International Disaster Assistance (IDA), Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA); P.L. 480 Title II Food Assistance and Emergency Migration and Refugee Assistance (ERMA). This strain is compounded by urgent new needs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, evolving crises in Mali and Sudan, and ongoing food insecurity in the Sahel.

“Current funding levels also mean that the U.S. government would be hard-pressed to respond to any unexpected crises that might erupt during the 2013 fiscal year. As Americans, we have a moral obligation to help those most in need,” said Worthington.

InterAction supports Secretary of State John Kerry’s call for robust foreign assistance funding, which he made in a speech at the University of Virginia today: “Our engagement with the rest of the world begins by making some important choices together, and particularly about our nation’s budget. Our sense of shared responsibility, that we care about something bigger than ourselves, is absolutely central to…the spirit of our nation.”

InterAction signed on to an open letter from 40 organizations supporting U.S. humanitarian assistance accounts. Separate letters supporting increased humanitarian funding were sent to Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns and Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jeffrey Zients.