“Many promises have been made to hungry and poor people around the world,” said Shawnda Eibl, religious press secretary for Bread for the World.
One of those promises is the Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000 by 189 nations including the United States. The goals are focused on reducing the devastation from worldwide hunger and poverty. President Bush proposed the creation of the Millennium Challenge Act in 2002. The MCA gives assistance to developing countries already making progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.
The money will go to poor countries that show the ability to use the money wisely, Eibl said. “There are very specific criteria that these countries have to go by. It’s different than traditional foreign aid.”
Congress approved several of the MCA proposals from Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters from 2003. Congress ratified an increase of $2 billion in poverty-focused development assistance for 2004, making it the “largest increase for hungry and poor people in decades,” according to Bread for the World’s February-March 2004 newsletter.
“In comparison with the entire budget, poverty focused is only a small portion,” Eibl said. “Less than half a percent…. Consider how a huge defense budget we have. It’s surprising because people think we give more than that.”
“Bread for the World doesn’t give bread directly,” Eibl said. “Instead, we give the gift of citizenship using our voice to advocate for hunger. It’s a gift will be held accountable for.”
Bread for the World, a Christian organization, is urging Congress members to fully fund the MCA through the Offering of Letters, which are handwritten letters asking to Congress members asking them to pass legislation that addresses hunger in the United States and across the world. This year’s theme is ‘Keep the Promise on Hunger and Health.’
David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, says the goal is to have more than 200,000 letters and calls to Congress members to support full funding of the MCA.
President Bush said he would increase the United States’ assistance to developing countries by 50 percent over the next three years, resulting in a $5 billion yearly increase over present levels by fiscal year 2005, according to Bread for the World’s Web site.
“Even though many low income countries have made progress, wealthy countries like the U.S. have not followed our promises,” Eibl said. “These promises need money. Many people will die of hunger and disease.”
“It’s estimated that 250,000 letters a year are written,” Eibl said. “This is a very special way of combating hunger. There’s a root issue we are getting at, and Bread for the World believes the answer is the political will.”
Consequently, Bread for the World’s 50,000 members directly lobby politicians through the Offering of Letters.
“Just because they think it’s a great idea doesn’t mean it will happen because there are a lot of other priorities,” Eibl said. “This is not a time to cut short people who are hungry and poor.”
With the work of BFW and other programs, worldwide hunger has decreased by almost 20 percent in the last 30 years, according to Bread for the World.
Bread for the World will commemorate its 30th anniversary on June 21 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Chasity Ann Gunn, a student at Belmont University, is an intern for EthicsDaily.com.