Catholic agencies call for funding for humanitarian, development activities

.- Catholic agencies are urging Congress to support essential funding for urgent humanitarian and development activities around the world as it considers Fiscal Year 2006 emergency appropriations.

Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy, and Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), addressed their requests to members of the House Appropriations Committee.

In their letter, dated March 7, they urged the committee to include critical funding requirements in the supplemental legislation pertaining to Sudan, migration and refugee assistance, Title II Food Aid, and Iraqi reconstruction.

The bishops and CRS support the President George Bush’s request for emergency funding for the refugee situation in Sudan, which they say is “crucial to alleviating the conflict and instability” in the African country. However, CRS staff in Darfur reports that there are still too many innocent lives that are being claimed by the genocide. Increased violence and insufficient humanitarian resources exacerbate the problems, and the U.S. must respond with more aid.

Given their perception of real need, the Catholic organizations also urged Congress to increase its allocation to the Migration and Refugee Assistance Account from $51.2 million to at least $117.2 million.

“This would enable the United States to provide a greater level of protection to refugees in Africa, and elsewhere, to meet their urgent unfilled assistance and admissions needs,” they wrote.

More funds should also be allocated to food aid. “Current food aid shortages have forced USAID/Food for Peace to take resources intended for long-term development programs for agriculture, public health, and education and use them instead for emergency needs,” they said. “CRS staff sees greatly expanding food insecurity in Kenya, the Sahel, and Southern Africa.”

While they support the $350 million in Title II resources requested by the president, they recommend an additional sum of $50 million.

Finally, Congress must make available all of the “necessary financial support …for genuine reconstruction” in Iraq. This assistance must help create decent levels of employment and economic opportunity, the letter stated.

“The future of Iraq depends on creating a sense of hope and opportunity as well as security and democracy,” they said.

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