Now is not the time to cut critical programs to fight hunger and disease

Instead, 18 million of the world’s poorest and hungriest people will be cut off from feeding programs; including 2.5 million children who will lose their daily school meal. An additional 15 million people, primarily women and children suffering from hunger as a result of conflict and natural disasters will lose access to emergency food aid.

Development efforts like Feed the Future and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) are vital initiatives to invest in long-term solutions to global hunger. These programs currently help farmers in some of the world’s poorest countries to grow more food. They are investing in countries like Haiti and Ethiopia, among the most vulnerable in the world, helping millions of people to feed their families and reducing the need for more costly emergency food assistance down the road.

But many other countries have been left out due to lack of funds. Among the countries that have submitted a proposal to the GAFSP but have not received support due to lack of US funding is Liberia. Liberia’s appeal for assistance has gone unfunded just as skyrocketing food prices threaten to spark unrest around the world. As a newly-democratic country emerging from decades of civil war and one of the poorest and least-developed countries in the world, continued peace and stability in Liberia is dependent on ensuring food security for the general population. Over one-third of Liberia’s people currently suffer from chronic hunger, including 20 percent of its children. Chronically hungry and malnourished people lose muscle mass as their body cannibalizes these tissues for energy. Atrophy of the stomach and muscles can follow along with severe dehydration, making the smallest movement painful. As fatigue and apathy take over, the person’s ability to interact with the surrounding world diminishes. Imagine living your entire life in that desperate state or watching your children endure it.

Suggested cuts would also cripple our national efforts to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Thirteen million children in sub-Saharan Africa have been orphaned by AIDS.

As a Christian Minister, I cannot forget the tragedy faced by my colleagues on the African continent, some of whom bury AIDS victims 3 at a time because if they did individual funerals they would have no time left to care for the living.

Churches across the United States were instrumental in securing the resources that have generated tremendous progress in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Less than a decade ago, fewer than 50,000 Africans were receiving life-saving AIDS treatment. Today, nearly 4 million are able to access the treatment they need to live longer, more productive lives.In some parts of Africa, malaria deaths have been halved. The proposed cuts to US assistance put this progress in jeopardy.

We are a country in financial crisis it is true, but let us not forget that we have also been richly blessed. Investments in programs that alleviate suffering around the world reflect American values and demonstrate American leadership in the world. They are investments we can ill-afford to do without.

Richard Cizik is the president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a faith-based nonprofit organization.