The White House has initiated a directive that instructs the State Department and the US mission to the United Nations to slash their budgets in half, including US peacekeeping and development assistance. This move would instantly stir chaos.

  • US funding to the United Nations to be halved.
  • Cuts amount to 37 percent, or $20 billion, to the State Department and USAID.
  • Over 20 million people in four different countries – Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen – are on the brink of famine.

“We stand at a critical point in our history. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death,” Stephen O’Brien, undersecretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs, told the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

The drastic cuts that are planned would align with previous proposals by the Trump administration as Trump looks to cut the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) budgets by 37 percent.

These cutbacks at a time of an extraordinary humanitarian crisis could be made worse by increased military actions abroad. “A budget that slashes State Department and USAID funding, while further expanding the Pentagon, shows Trump is intent on undermining U.S. government agencies that address pressing human rights issues, most of which are not dealt with by military force,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director of Human Rights Watch.

The US currently pays 21% of the operating budget of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which promotes democracy and good governance, particularly in Europe. This contrasts with Japan who contributes the second largest amount at 12%. Trump wants to reduce America’s contribution to this level.

“Everyone else is going to have to step up,” one senior White House official said.

Furthermore, the White House also wants to remove funding for voluntary assessments and programs for all international organizations. The timeline for these cuts is still unclear with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proposing to make these reductions over three years, arguing that he needs more than one budget cycle.

Extreme conflict

The four countries facing the toughest challenges with famine all are entangled in extreme conflict.


Already the poorest country in the Arab war before the civil war began over two years ago, the brutal and complex conflict has left thousands of civilians dead and millions more displaced.

7 million Yemenis don’t know where their next meal will come from and 19 million need humanitarian assistance, according to the U.N. Crucial humanitarian aid is not reaching civilians as it is being blocked by the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition. Water shortages and dry weather have compounded the crisis, diminishing crops and inhibiting agricultural efforts, according to The World Bank.

South Sudan:

Only five years old, the country has faced conflict since its very beginning – from civil war to U.N. declared ethnic cleaning. The U.N. has declard South Sudan’s famine as “man-made”, leaving 7.5 million in need of aid and 4.9 million in need of urgent food assistance, according to the World Food Programme.

3.4 million people have been displaced internally from the constant fighting, according to the U.N. – with citizens still waiting for the peace deal signed in 2015 to be implemented.


The terror group Boko Haram continues to plague the country’s northeast region, which was already exposed to food insecurity. 1.8 million Nigerians were already at risk, but 4.7 million more are now in need of emergency food aid, according to the World Food Programme.

Half the children under the age of 5 are at risk of severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF, with nearly 20 percent starving to death if aid demands aren’t met.

Repeated droughts and floods make it even harder for citizens to better their lives through agriculture.


The war-torn country has faced unstable conditions for over two decades. Encroaching drought and persistent conflict is made worse by terror group al-Shabaab has only made matters worse by blocking humanitarian agencies from entering the country and stealing foreign aid.

3 million Somalis are in need of urgent food assistance and 1.2 million have been displaced due to conflict, with that figure rising. The country’s president recently declared the drought in Somalia a national disaster.

Resistance from within the Trump administration

Trump could face pushback from his own administration on reducing the budget of the State Department. Defense Secretary James Mattis, for instance, warned against cutting diplomatic resources during congressional testimony in 2013.

Several prominent generals like David Petraeus and admirals like James Stavridis, the former supreme commander of NATO, wasted little time in mobilizing to challenge his proposals.

121 military figures have already warned that State Department diplomacy, aid and programs are vital to preventing conflict overseas and could lessen the need for costly and bloody military deployments.