Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Case for Poverty Focused Foreign Assistance

Some Bread for the World members around the country (including New Mexico) are urging Congress this year to protect funding for poverty-focused foreign assistance. This effort is one of four mini campaigns connected with the 2012 Offering of Letters.

Funding for poverty-focused foreign assistance programs comprises only 0.6 percent of the U.S. federal budget. Yet this small amount of money is crucial. Each year, U.S. poverty-focused assistance:
  • can save more than 1 million lives by focusing on adequate nutrition during the 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age 2.
  • provides medications that prevent more than 114,000 infants from being born with HIV, and provides counseling to more than 33 million people affected with HIV since 2004.
  • saves 3 million lives through immunization.
  • helps bring safe drinking water sources to poor communities, impacting 1.3 billion people over the last decade.   
Support from USAID
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) also developed a very useful chart that lists advances in the fight against global hunger and poverty, as well as useful statistics and definitions that put the situation into perspective. The US and other countries have provided support that have made many of the advances listed below possible.

There is a snapshot of the chart on the left, but to appreciate the full graphic, click on this link.

Here are examples contained in the chart:
Poverty is a principal cause of hunger – it prevents people from having access to food and the tools they need to grow it. Natural disasters, conflict, lack of infrastructure, and poor farming practices also contribute to the growing problem of hunger as the world population increases. But simple, smart investments in agriculture have saved lives in the past, and today we have the science, innovation, and technology to create sustainable solutions that will Feed the Future.

What Hunger Means
  • Children suffering from malnutrition are 9% more likely to die
  • Hunger costs developing countries approximately $450 billion per year in lost GDP 
  • Hunger increases a country's risk of democratic failure, protests, rioting and civil conflict

Breakthroughs in the Fight Against Hunger

Cassava: A program to develop high-yield vitamin-enriched  varieties of cassava helped cut undernourishment in Ghana by half over a 20-year period.

Rice: Between 1965 and 2007, semi-dwarf rice helped expand global rice production from 256 to over 635 million metric tons. 

Wheat: Adoption of short-stature wheat beginning in the 1950s, along with other transformative Green Revolution technologies, are credited with saving an estimated one million lives.

Corn: In Rwanda, a crop intensification initiative that made fertilizer and higher-quality seeds available to farmers produced four times the annual corn output than was harvested in years past.

Tilapia: The Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia strain developed by the WorldFish Center helped over 300,000 people in The Philippines alone.

Investments to Fight Hunger
  • Growth in agriculture is on average at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other areas.
  • A vaccine to prevent cattle disease in Africa would increase milk production by at least 240 million liters annually.
  • Investments that provide women equal access to land, water, seeds, training, and funding in agriculture could increase farm yields by 20-30%.

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