NEW YORK – There is a tragic inconsistency in US President Donald Trump’s response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of sarin gas against his country’s people. Trump said that he was moved to act by images of innocent children in Idlib province who had been killed by the deadly nerve agent. Yet Trump’s administration stands behind a proposed budget that will cause even greater harm to people in Idlib and around the world.
For starters, Trump wants to slash overall funding to the United Nations – a move that would undermine the entire global humanitarian-aid system. Last year, the US contributed about $10 billion to UN efforts that support refugees, feed the poor, protect human rights, vaccinate children, and uphold peace. Trump not only wants to cut that spending by nearly 30%; he also plans to gut or even eliminate US government programs that help prevent starvation and provide essential services in Idlib and elsewhere.
Even seeming minor cuts can have an outsize impact. For example, the State Department is scrapping Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance, a small but crucial fund that has been deployed in Idlib to provide emergency food aid to Syrians driven from their homes by Assad’s army. In the past, the fund has quelled unforeseen crises in South Sudan, Mali, and Côte d’Ivoire, and other countries.
Furthermore, Trump wants steep cuts to the US Agency for International Development’s Food for Peace program, which has helped to feed three billion people in 150 countries since President Dwight D. Eisenhower created it in 1954, and to eliminate the US Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program. He also wants a one-third cut in funding to UNICEF, which provides clean water for children. And he seeks to reduce the United States’ $2 billion contribution to the World Food Program.