Tomorrow, the Senate Appropriations Committee is going to vote on the Agriculture Appropriations Bill which the House of Representatives passed in June, and which cuts emergency food funds by 75% from their 2008 levels. 13 million people are affected by the current famine in the Horn of Africa, and House Republicans voted to provide less aid. This is unconscionable.
From the World Food Program:
Drought in the Horn of Africa, combined with conflict and high food prices in Somalia, has contributed to a humanitarian crisis affecting 13 million people in the region. Conditions in southern Somalia have deteriorated to the point that famine has been declared. Furthermore, millions of children are suffering from undernutrition; these nutrient deficiencies impair mental and physical development in children and can result in lifelong health problems.
In light of this crisis, the U.S. government has emerged as one of the largest donors of humanitarian assistance to the region, providing about $459 million this fiscal year to help refugees, families affected by drought and strength food security in the region. Last week, the U.S. announced it is providing an additional $21 million contribution to WFP’s work in Somalia. U.S. assistance has also gone beyond immediate needs to support programs that build regional capacity to handle future droughts through investments in programs like Feed the Future.
Despite the importance of U.S. emergency assistance to save lives when disasters strike, several the House of Representatives has recently proposed drastic cuts to American humanitarian assistance. The House passed an Agricultural Appropriations Bill that cut emergency food assistance by 75 percent from 2008 levels. In the subcommittee mark up of the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, the account that funds emergency food assistance was cut by 12 percent.
Representatives James McGovern, Rosa DeLauro, and Jan Schakowsky criticized these cuts from the House floor last Thursday. In his speech, Rep. McGovern explained that, “the current crisis, terrible as it is, could have been much worse. There is good news amongst so much tragedy. The last time a drought of this magnitude hit Ethiopia, over 14 million people faced starvation. This time, about 4.5 million Ethiopians are in need of emergency aid. The difference? Since 2005, the United States and other donors have made significant investments in Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program.
I saw first-hand several of these programs in 2007. They help small farmers and poor communities diversify the crops they planted, broaden their sources of income, create local markets, better manage their water resources, and increase the nutritional content of their own diets and those of their children. This has enabled over 7.5 million Ethiopians to withstand the worst effects of the current drought. These families and communities are NOT part of the 4.5 million Ethiopians who require urgent humanitarian aid.”
If you live in any of the following districts, please call your Senator. Better yet, fax a letter. That’s what I’m about to do. (Click through to The Last Word blog for a link to the email addresses for the Senators listed below. The links are current inactive — I will add the links below, but it will take some time.)
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (Chairman), Hawaii – Email or call at (202) 224.3934 or fax at (202) 224-6747
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont – Email or call at (202) 224-4242
Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa – Email or call at (202) 224-3254 or fax at (202) 224-9369
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland – Email or call at (202) 224-4654 or fax at (410) 962-4760
Sen. Herb Kohl, Wisconsin – Email or call at (202) 224-5653 or fax at (202) 224-9787
Sen. Patty Murray, Washington – Email or call at (202) 224-2621 or fax at (202) 224-0238
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California – Email or call at (202) 224-3841 or fax at (202) 228-3954
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois – Email or call at (202) 224-2152
Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota – Email or call at (202) 224-5842
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana – Email or call at (202) 224-5824
Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island – Email or call at (202) 224-4642 or fax at (202) 224-4680
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey – Email or call at (202) 224-3224
Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska – Email or call at (202) 224-6551 or fax at 202-228-0012
Sen. Mark Pryor, Arkansas – Email or call at (202) 224-2353 or fax at (202) 228-0908
Sen. Jon Tester, Montana – Email or call at (202) 224-2644 or fax at (202) 224-8594
Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio – Email or call at (202) 224-2315 or fax at (202) 228-6321
Sen. Thad Cochran (Vice Chairman), Mississippi – Email or call at (202) 224-5054 or fax at 202-224-9450
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky – Email or call at (202) 224-2541 or fax at 202-224-2499
Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama – Email or call at (202) 224-5744 or fax at 202-224-3416
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas – Email or call at (202) 224-5922 or fax at 202.224.0776
Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee – Email or call at (202) 224-4944 or fax at 202-228-3398
Sen. Susan Collins, Maine – Email or call at (202) 224-2523 or fax at 202-224-2693
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska – Email or call at (202) 224-6665 or fax at 202-224-5301
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina – Email or call at (202) 224-5972
Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois – Email or call at (202) 224-2854 or fax at 202-228-4611
Sen. Dan Coats, Indiana – Email or call at (202) 224-5623 or fax at (202) 228-1820
Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri – Email or call at (202) 224-5721 or fax at 202-224-8149
Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas – Email or call at (202) 224-6521 or fax at 202-228-6966
Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota – Email or call at (202) 224-2551 or fax at 202-224-7999
Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin – Email or call at (202) 224-5323 or fax at 202-224-2725
Here’s a template (courtesy of Emily L. Hauser):
Dear Senator ____,
I write to you tonight to urge you to vote against the Agriculture Appropriations Bill passed by the House in June which would cut emergency food funds by 75% from their 2008 levels.
With some 13 million people starving to death in the Horn of Africa – as Senator Frist recently reported, some 30,000 children have died just over the summer – the idea that my nation would vote to shrink our commitment to those in need is simply horrifying.
Please, Senator – do all that you can to stop this bill from being passed into law. Hungry families need us.
Thank you, and thank you for all your years of service,
You can also donate money to help relief efforts in the Horn of Africa. We recommend donating to UNICEF. To do so, simply click here or call 1-800-4UNICEF (1-800-486-4233).
Cheap shot, I know (if you’re like me and this song makes your eyes rain).
But seriously — please help.
***If you track down the fax numbers for any of the above Senators, please leave the number in the comments. I will update this list in order to make it easier for people to contact their Senators. Thanks!
[cross-posted at ABLC where I will do the link updating, FYI.]