Washington D.C, September 27, 2023 — As U.S. legislators race to reach an agreement on the government's FY24 fiscal year budget, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is warning that proposed cuts to humanitarian aid would have a catastrophic effect on global security, including food insecurity, child survival and the response to the climate crisis. The IRC is urging Congress to protect foreign assistance and humanitarian programs given the moral and strategic imperative.
Humanitarian needs are at an all-time high this year. 363 million people require humanitarian aid. Cutting aid at a time of record needs would be nothing short of catastrophic for millions. This call comes as the acceleration of armed conflicts, economic turmoil, and the climate crisis continues to take a toll on the world's most vulnerable countries and failed states. With over 110 million people displaced worldwide, the need for strong, sustained humanitarian support is critical. Millions of families would lose access to vital humanitarian services in health, protection, and livelihood rebuilding.
The United States has a long history of strong bipartisan support for humanitarian aid that has consistently provencost-efficient for taxpayers. Humanitarian assistance accounts for a mere 1% of America's budget, and this year alone, the United States has shown remarkable leadership in humanitarian response. Providing humanitarian assistance maintains Congress's track record of protecting American national security interests and mobilizing the political will of the international community to stop the cycle of crisis. In the last 30 years, the number of people in extreme poverty and mortality rates for children under five have dropped by half. Programs such as PEPFAR for HIV and consistent humanitarian aid packages since 1990 have reduced poverty from 1.9 billion to 700 million, reduced mortality by half, and eradicated infectious diseases including Smallpox.
U.S. funding played a major role in preventing multiple famines, including thanks to a rapid scale-up in Somalia last year and preventing winter famines for the past two years in Afghanistan. In the face of sudden conflict in Ukraine, the U.S. stepped up to enable Ukrainian families to regain access to heat during winter and demine farmland. Andrii, a farmer from Kherson, Ukraine, told the IRC: “My life has changed drastically. Before the war, I had a successful business with plans for a stable future. Now, due to the armed conflict, 95% of our assets have either been stolen or destroyed.” Organizations like IRC work to not only save lives, but help people recover from crises and regain their livelihoods. Current humanitarian funding to Ukraine is half of where it was last year. In 2023 alone, the United States provided transformative aid in Somalia curbing the potential for a nationwide famine, sent vital packages to communities facing consistent shellingin Ukraine, an urgent response to the victims of devastating earthquakes in Syria-Türkiye, and just two weeks ago made a substantial donation to the victims of floods in Libya.
America’s longstanding humanitarian commitment may also be endangered at home due to a government shutdown starting on October 1 if a budget is not passed. Notably, a shutdown may delay some immigration court cases, including for people seeking asylum and other protections, only adding to uncertainty for immigrant families and contributing to lengthy backlogs that increase costs for taxpayers.
While all aspects of American life will be affected by a potential government shutdown, the IRC’s clients may face consequences inside the United States and around the world. Therefore, the IRC is calling on Congress to pass the FY2024 State and Foreign Operations and international food assistance provisions in Agriculture appropriations at no less than FY2023 levels to continue serving the people most in need and reduce uncertainty.