his past week, President Trump met with G7 leaders in Taormina, Italy amid a global food crisis of unfathomable proportions. Tragically, Heads of State from G7 countries missed the opportunity to address this humanitarian crisis, prevent starvation, and save lives. But there is still time for the U.S. to work with world leaders to respond.
The current food insecurity crisis has quietly been growing unchecked as millions are at risk of dying. Twenty million people now face starvation in parts of South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Northern Nigeria, including 1.4 million children at risk of imminent death. In Yemen, a child dies from preventable causes like hunger and malnutrition every 10 minutes.
Undoubtedly, the situation in these countries is complicated. Conflict and drought have compounded already fragile situations to create possibly the worst famine conditions the modern world has ever seen. But the world has what it takes to mitigate the human suffering and death. We need to immediately mobilize resources from all countries, including the United States, to feed the hungry, while paving the way for building longer term more sustainable solutions to food insecurity around the world.
We applaud the leadership of the United States Congress to protect foreign assistance and heed the call to action to fight famine by allocating nearly $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 for the countries facing famine. This is an urgent need as lives are being lost daily.
We look to congressional leadership once again this budget cycle to ensure that U.S. foreign assistance is protected. The president’s budget attempts to slash life-saving funding that will hurt young children in the poorest countries and reverse more than a decade of global development progress.
We must continue to build capacity and resilience in developing countries to prevent future catastrophes. U.S. foreign assistance programs that share American ingenuity and innovation in food security are investments in the future, helping countries to nourish young bodies and minds, ultimately breaking the cycle of poverty and super charging the global economy. And if that’s not compelling enough, the famine conditions serve as a reminder that in clearest terms, cutting foreign assistance means that more people will needlessly die from preventable causes.
It is in our national interest to ensure that the most powerful countries in the world are collaborating to find solutions to global crises. Gatherings like the G7 provide an international stage for the U.S. to influence decision making and demonstrate leadership on global challenges. By backing down at these junctures, the U.S. loses any leverage it may have to encourage other countries to act.
For this reason, we call on President Trump to work with world leaders at the next meeting of Heads of State at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany in July and unite all G20 countries to increase emergency funding for famine response alongside development assistance to address food security and malnutrition.
In a world of plenty, it is a grave injustice to stand by while people are starving. On behalf of the innocent men, women, children and families that are affected, we are committed to supporting immediate and long-term development efforts toward a more peaceful and just world. We need the U.S. government to make that same commitment.
Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World, a group that advocates for fighting hunger in the U.S. and abroad. Lucy Martinez Sullivan is executive director of 1,000 Days, a non-profit group that seeks to improve nutrition in the U.S. and around the world.