government shutdownAs the current government shutdown stretches into day 21, the effects are starting to show. But, the effects of the current shutdown aren’t just being felt at home. The cuts to funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have been felt around the world. Here is the cost of the government shutdown on foreign aid.

Who is Affected By the Shutdown?

The partial shutdown began on December 22 when Congress and the President were unable to come to an agreement on funding for Trump’s border wall. Since then, it has affected multiple federal departments including Agriculture, Homeland Security, Interior, State and USAID. More than 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or forced to work without pay, and the effects have been far-reaching. National parks have been shut down, airline travel has been strained and immigration courts have been backlogged.

USAID, which was created by President Kennedy in the 1960s, began as a way to lead international development and humanitarian services. Due to the cuts from the shutdown, about half of the agency’s employees have been furloughed, making it hard for the agency to continue operations. Previously funded projects and NGOs will continue to operate, but no new funding will be started or given. Furthermore, interaction and oversight from the department have steeply declined, decreasing the effectiveness of all programs.

Foreign Affairs

U.S. foreign development and affairs are not the only areas being impacted. The State Department has been affected by the shutdown as well. The State Department represents the government in foreign affairs, and many of its 75,000 employees work overseas. Since funding to the State Department has been cut off, most of those employees are not working or are working for no pay, meaning that all foreign relations are “running on fumes.” This is a problem because, without proper funding, the department cannot continue to do the tasks assigned to it, like alleviating tensions in the middle east.

In terms of the world’s poor, the loss of activity at both the USAID and the State Department will have a huge impact. Without any new funding or programs that help struggling nations with water and sanitation, health, education and climate change, the Agency for International Development will not be able to continue its work of providing humanitarian assistance to struggling nations.

The current shutdown, which is tied for the longest shutdown in history, has no end in sight. The continued lack of funding for USAID and the State Department means that the cost of the government shutdown on foreign aid will be huge. Since USAID works in more than 100 countries, the cost of the government shutdown will be felt by millions around the world. Without a fully functioning State Department to conduct diplomacy abroad, the situation will only get worse.

Peter Zimmerman

Photo: Pixabay

What if you did not have a birth certificate, driver’s license, passport or health insurance card? There is no way of proving who you are. This is the reality for some children in developing countries.

Millions of people, mostly in the developing world, were not officially registered when they were born. In wealthy countries like the U.S., almost every birth is registered upon arrival with a government agency and documented with a birth certificate.

But in much of Africa and Asia, documentation only happened for a fraction of newborns. And living as an undocumented person is a lifelong problem. You cannot obtain a driver’s license, passport or a health insurance card.

Kerry Neal, a child protection specialist with UNICEF, explains, “A birth certificate is the document from which all others spring. Without one, it can be hard to get into school, get exam certificates, get a passport or even a SIM card for your phone in some countries. You often need to show proof of identity and citizenship to get medical and social services.”

Without proper documentation, children cannot prove their age. This causes children more likely to be trafficked, conscripted or forced to work or marry while underage.

Births should also be registered because governments need to know how many people are being born where in order to plan for services such as schools, hospitals and roads. Birth registrations are the best way to track demographics.

This information piqued the interest of President Obama.

“Earlier in June, President Obama signed the Girls Count Act, which authorizes the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to promote birth registration systems around the world.”

The issue of birth registrations has also been getting increasing attention from UNICEF. In December 2013, UNICEF published groundbreaking reports.

The reports estimated that some 230 million children under the age of five, one out of three children worldwide, never had their birth registered.

The reasons for the million of births never registered are unknown. Some parents in the developing world may not have known about the process, found it too difficult, too expensive or a combination of all these reasons.

Often, registration offices are only found in cities. Many rural families cannot afford to take time off of work, and to spend the money required for the trip. Statistically, children in urban areas have higher registration rates than those living in rural areas.

Parents may also hold religious views that do not support government registration of children. In some areas of the developing world, there may not even be a government system available for registering the births.

For example, the UNICEF report found that in war ravaged Somalia and Liberia, fewer than five percent of births are registered.

Without proper documentation, some children do not exist. This leads to a life full of problems, including lack of schooling, underage trafficking and inability to apply for a job.

Lack of documentation is negatively affecting the developing world. With the help of the Girls Count Act, future generations of children hold a chance to be registered, and to live their life with proper documentation.

Kerri Szulak

Sources: Take Part, UNICEF
Photo: Save the Children