Cuts to foreign assistance will hurt global health advancements

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As I’m sure you all can imagine, it’s been a busy week in Congress. With the budget debate still going strong and sequestration looking more and more likely, all US-funded programs are on the chopping block.

Photo credit: The Global Fund 

With everything at risk, the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), a group of more than 25 nonprofit organizations working to develop scientific innovations that would protect against disease in the developing world, organized a congressional briefing to educate decision makers about how budget cuts would jeopardize the advancements we have made in global health, and reverse a decade of progress against deadly diseases.

The event, featuring a panel of health experts to discuss the role of research, science and medicine in the US global development agenda, marked the release of GHTC’s new report, Renewing US Leadership: Policies to advance global health research.

If sequestration goes ahead as expected, a 5.2 percent funding reduction for all discretionary programs will go into effect. Cuts to the Global Fund, PEPFAR, and GAVI could slow down or halt the incredible progress that’s been made in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, not to mention the ongoing research projects around dengue fever, maternal health, and others that hang in the balance.

Given what we have to lose if Congress decides to cut life-saving programs in the developing world, nearly 200 ONE members and volunteers flocked to the hill on Tuesday to meet with senators and representatives about the importance of humanitarian assistance and the great work that it’s doing. While we know that Congress faces tough decisions in order to address the deficit, we’re asking Congress to not balance the budget at the sake of refusing assistance to the world’s poor. Given that only .6 percent of US spending goes toward humanitarian aid, cuts in assistance programs would not make an impact on our country’s financial burden – though it would have an astounding impact on those living in extreme poverty.

Not only does the less than 1 percent of the budget that goes toward humanitarian aid projects comprise a tiny portion of federal spending, but it pulls more than its weight in terms of returns on expenditures. US investments in global health research have developed a vaccine for meningitis A, a test for detecting tuberculosis, and the first drug to treat children with malaria, amongst other amazing achievements.

Let’s make 2013 the year that the US recommits itself to the battle against preventable diseases by maintaining funding for global health programs. By joining ONE and raising your voice, you can help us not only fight to protect funding, but fight to save lives.