On the eve of an ever more likely government shutdown, Raj Shah reminds us of the millions of people around the world who count on the support and assistance of the US government.
In his first 2011 Annual Letter released last week, the USAID Administrator reflects on the many accomplishments and advancements in US foreign assistance over the past year. From innovative relief efforts in Haiti, to election assistance in Sudan, to development assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan, USAID is working along with the State Department and the military to help ensure the safety and security of citizens. Additionally, US investments in key initiatives such as Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative are fighting hunger and deadly diseases, and giving people a chance to lead healthy, prosperous lives. And all of this for less than 1 percent of the entire US budget!
For those who may be skeptical of what foreign assistance can achieve, Shah highlights some of the outstanding successes in global development over the past decades:
- In the 1960’s the Green Revolution in Asia and Latin America helped save hundreds of millions of lives through smart agricultural investments from the US government, foreign governments, and private foundations,
- Since 1990, 5.4 million HIV patients are on life-saving antiretroviral drugs, thanks in part to US funded programs like PEPFAR
- 188,000 more women survive childbirth with the help of skilled birth attendants,
- And entire countries like South Korea, that used to rely heavily on USAID and other donor support, now are healthy vibrant economies that give foreign assistance to other nations and are important markets for US exports.
In order to keep delivering on these important successes and ensure that every dollar of our foreign assistance goes further, the US has introduced a number of advancements to USAID and global development efforts. Beginning in September when President Obama laid out the US global development policy at the United Nations, USAID followed by introducing key reform efforts in the way it does business, including new models for partnership, a greater focus on development results and monitoring impact, greater transparency efforts like the foreign assistance dashboard, and a spotlight on innovation and science and technology to achieve new gains and efficiencies in development.
But despite all of the accomplishments over the past year, and the decades of progress that have come before, future advancements in development are threatened by diminishing resources. Congress is currently debating funding for the remainder of FY11 that could cut between 10 to 40 percent from critical programs that help the poorest countries. And a new budget resolution from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan for FY12 would cut as much as 27 percent from the total US international affairs budget (and if you don’t include foreign assistance for frontline states like Afghanistan and Pakistan, the cuts are as much as 37 percent!).
While cuts like these may only reduce the budget deficit by a mere percentage point, they would have devastating consequences to those who depend on life-saving antiretroviral treatments for AIDS, insecticide treated bednets, and immunizations against preventable diseases. At a recent House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Raj Shah told committee members that cuts in the bill passed by the House for FY11 could result in the deaths of 70,000 children in developing countries, a “conservative” estimate in his words. So while Congress faces difficult decisions to rein in spending and control the budget, we must also face the difficult consequences that would arise from cuts in the critical 1 percent of our budget.
To read more about the progress we’ve made, check out these incredible videos and stories on ONE’s Living Proof website.
Photo courtesy of USAID.