LOS ANGELES, California — With competing crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, the need for foreign assistance is high. While the United States provided $51 billion in foreign assistance in 2020, it still ranks lower on the list of OECD countries in terms of government aid supplied to developing countries.
However, there are many bills introduced to Congress that propose greater humanitarian aid, international development initiatives and poverty relief to tackle the challenges of 2022 so far. Here are five Congress bills pushing for foreign assistance in 2022.
California Representative Karen Bass introduced the bill on May 24, which calls for “greater humanitarian and agricultural assistance” to countries within the Horn of Africa, specifically Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, these regions have experienced extreme drought due to four consecutive seasons of insufficient rainfall, leading to livestock deaths, decreased harvests and water shortages. As a result, 18.4 million people across these regions face extreme food insecurity as of June 2022.
H.Res. 1137 pledges to provide aid to the affected regions and support the efforts of NGOs and international organizations. It also underlines the necessity of shared assistance from the U.S. and other major countries in sending aid to countries experiencing food insecurity, as well as developing a plan of action for climate change that is the cause of drought conditions, according to GovTrack.
This bill aims to affirm the continued support for the George McGovern-Robert Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern introduced the bill on June 7, 2022. The McGovern-Dole Program, under the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, works to reduce food insecurity in low-income countries by partnering with nonprofit and international organizations and the U.N. World Food Program.
The bill acknowledges the program’s 20th anniversary and its role in breaking the “cycle of hunger and poverty” in more than 48 countries. In 2021 alone, the program provided 4.5 million children and community members with meals made from food commodities donated by American farmers. It also works on improving education access, especially to young girls and promoting public health in partner countries, according to GovTrack.
Tennessee Representative Mark Green introduced this bill on April 26, 2022. H.R. 7579, also titled Western Hemisphere Nearshoring Act, aims to build economic partnerships between the U.S. and other countries in the Western Hemisphere. While the bill does not provide direct foreign assistance, it encourages the U.S. to support the economic development in Central and South America through the relocation of the global supply chains to those regions.
This is especially relevant given that Latin American and Caribbean countries are expected to see food insecurity and unemployment due to rising inflation and economic impacts from the Russia-Ukraine war. Poverty in these regions is could increase by 0.9% from 2021 to a total of 33% of the population, according to U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. H.R. 7579 provides a pipeline for poverty relief by developing these countries’ economies.
This bill aims to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 in order to provide assistance in ending “preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths globally” by 2030. California Representative Sara Jacobs introduced this bill, also titled Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2022, on June 14, 2022, according to GovTrack.
The bill proposes programs on child and maternal health that are designed for the priority countries. Globally, maternal and child mortality rates have fallen considerably in the past 20 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the global mortality rate for children under 5 years old dropped from 75.8 in 2000 to 36.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020. However, there are large differences in these mortality rates by region; children in Africa are 10 times more at risk than in Europe.
According to the bill, USAID, in coordination with “partner entities” such as local governments and NGOs, should implement these programs in the priority countries facing higher mortality rates.
H.Res. 1195/S.Res. 684
In honor of World Refugee Day, California Representative Ted Lieu and Senior Senator for New Jersey Robert Menendez introduced H.Res. 1195 and S.Res. 684, respectively, on June 21, 2022. The bills call on the U.S. to protect “the safety, health and well-being of refugees and displaced persons.” H.Res. 1195 and S.Res. 684 list Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela and South Sudan as regions of particular concern, among others, according to GovTrack.
Under the UNHCR’s mandate, there are 27.1 million refugees and 89.3 million displaced persons as of 2021, the highest ever recorded. Refugees are more susceptible to falling into poverty; for example, the UNHCR also estimated that 70% of Syrian refugees were living in poverty in 2021.
These bills ask for the U.S. to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees to help resettlement in other host countries, and asylum to all refugees or displaced persons within the country. It also requests support for UNHCR and partner organizations’ efforts to protect refugees.
Despite being only halfway through 2022, these bills show that U.S. policymakers have recognized the importance of foreign assistance and shared responsibility in addressing global changes. It is important to keep the momentum so that these bills and more get passed in Congress.
– Ramona Mukherji