Most certainly Yes!
It’s been over a year since I last posted in this blog, but I readan e-mail yesterday that motivated me to post tonight. Before I write about that e-mail though, I want to quickly tie some loose strings.
In my last post I said that I was fundraising for RESULTS by taking part in the annual Friends and Family Campaign. Last year I raised over $405 for RESULTS. I took part in this year’s Friends and Family Campaign as well. The campaign officially ended on April 31, but the web-based donation page will remain active until the end of this Friday. So far, I’ve raised $395. A little less than last year, but I’m hoping this post will inspire some last second contributions.
I think the news I’m about to share is actually more important than any additional contributions (welcome as those would be). A couple months ago, RESULTS began a new campaign in our global health work. The campaign is to raise awareness of the importance of children getting sufficient micronutrients early in their life. Studies published in the last few years have identified that fetuses and children in their first 1000 days of life, basically from conception to two years old, especially need micronutrients in order to grow into physically and mentally healthy children and eventually adults.
If necessary micronutrients are lacking the effects include death and stunting. Some 2.5 million children under the age of five die each year from undernutrition. An estimated 165 million children survive undernutrition, but many of those suffer from stunting. If the undernutrition is extreme and early in life, the stunting is permanent. According to the World Bank’s Scaling Up Nutrition: What Will It Cost? 2010 study such stunting can reduce a person’s lifetime earnings by 10% and, if widespread in a country, can reduce the country’s GDP by 2-3%.
Right now, the U.S. gives less than 1% of its foreign development aid (which itself is less than 1% of the total federal budget) to programs that ensure pregnant mothers and children get sufficient micronutrients to prevent death and stunting. RESULTS volunteers across the nation and lobbying their representatives and senators to prioritize higher funding for international nutrition programs. And this is where the e-mail I saw yesterday comes into play.
Mark Coats is a volunteer RESULTS group leader in Austin, Texas. His representative is Congressman McCaul, a fifth-term Republican representing the 10th district. Mark wrote to McCaul’s staffer in charge of foreign affairs to ask that Rep. McCaul sign a dear colleague letter supporting the U.S. taking a leadership role in global nutrition. The staffer wrote back:
Mark, I have a question about point number one in the letter: “(1) Pledging support for plans in poor countries to strengthen and expand nutrition interventions.” Does this imply more U.S. funding for such programs? That is how I read it. In this time of austerity, it would be very difficult to argue for more funding.
Mark was understandably pessimistic about getting his representative to sign onto the letter and show his support for more funding of nutrition programs. But, and this is why I’m so proud of RESULTS, Mark didn’t give up. He wrote the following e-mail back to the staffer.
Good question. What the pledge does is give voice to our priorities and our values. I believe Americans value life and Americans value children.
As a father who raised three daughters, their needs and ‘nutrition’ were top priority, even when money was tight. During the recession when I lost my job and my income was decimated I still supported my youngest, Kristen, to complete her degree at UT Dallas. Her life could not wait.
For the 2.5 million children who die each year, due directly to malnutrition, their lives can’t wait either. When one of every four children worldwide is impacted intellectually and economically by malnutrition, preventing the cycle of poverty from being broken, the world cannot wait.
I understand it is a difficult task for Congress is to find the balance between competing priorities. However, when we look at what the U.S. is proposing to invest in addressing malnutrition for FY14, it is less than $100 million. That is less than 1% of all development assistance!
So it is not about asking for “more”. The pledge is about a common sense allotment of resources to address the challenges we face.
I urge Congressman McCaul to support ending malnutrition and demonstrate bold leadership for values all American’s hold dear – life and children. Would you please explain my request to him and ask if he will co-sign the letter and tell me what his response is?
Mark wrote the letter based on information he’d gotten through RESULTS. RESULTS got the information based on information provided by the World Bank, the Copenhagen Consensus, and other international development organizations. RESULTS helped Mark learn the facts and helped him learn how to effectively lobby government.
How effective was Mark’s advocacy? The next day, May 28, Mark learned that Rep. McCaul agreed to sign the dear colleague letter. I’ve roomed with Mark several times at RESULTS International Conferences. He’s a thin, slightly smaller than average man with a humble, thoughtful disposition. He’s the kind of person you could pass on the street and not remember.
Yet, a couple days ago, he got a Texas Republican to connect with his core values and realize that “shrinking the government” does not preclude making smart investments in international health programs. A couple days ago, Mark reminded me what RESULTS is all about–teaching average citizens how to reconnect with their own political power on behalf of those with the least amount of political power, those at the very bottom of the economic ladder.
I believe part of our purpose in life is to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Thanks Mark and RESULTS for showing me how.