It is an outrage that President Bush is proposing to cut core funding for overseas humanitarian aid while millions in Africa and worldwide face the threat of hunger and poverty. The United States should fully fund efforts to improve the lives of the world’s poor by dramatically increasing our allocations to international relief organizations such as the UN World Food Program, whose work saves countless lives in over 80 countries through school feeding projects, nutrition programs for HIV/AIDS sufferers, refugee food relief and many other vital tasks.
But aid is not enough. Impoverished countries are being ravaged by debt payments to global institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. $2.5 billion is transferred every year from Sub-Saharan Africa to foreign bankers and creditors, while 40% of its population experiences some form of malnutrition. We must push for the immediate cancellation of all bilateral debts of poor countries as well as cancellation of debts to the IMF and World Bank.
In addition, the economic policies dictated to poor countries by the IMF and the World Bank — so-called “structural adjustment programs” — have devastated Third World economies. Last year’s food crisis in Malawi, where as many as several thousand died of hunger, followed IMF-mandated cutbacks in agricultural aid to small farmers and in food subsidies for families. It is time that we end this cruel betrayal of the world’s hungry by working to end structural adjustment.
Less than a year after President Bush and the GOP made headlines promising a commitment to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, their backsliding is already well underway. After pledging up to $3 billion per year to combat the epidemic in his State of the Union address, President Bush submitted a budget request calling for only $2 billion in next year’s budget. Thankfully, my colleague, Rep. Dick Durbin, introduced an amendment adding an extra $289 million and shamed the Republican leadership into supporting the measure. We won that fight, but the president still has not demonstrated that his high-minded words mean anything when it comes to battling the great plague of our times.