Budget resolutions show bipartisan solidarity with the world’s poorest

When President Obama announced his 2017 budget request in February, Global Citizens celebrated his support for life-saving vaccines and polio eradication and expressed concern over his proposed cuts to vital programs expanding access to clean water, safe sanitation and global education. Now that both the House and Senate appropriations bills for the State and Foreign Operations and Related Programs subcommittees have been marked up, it is clear that Congress has stood up for the world’s poorest and committed to increase funding for programs tackling our world’s greatest challenges. This year, Congress is taking bipartisan action to lead the world in the fight to end extreme poverty.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s recommendation of $814.5 million for maternal and child health programs and the House Appropriations Committee’s recommendation of $997 million demonstrate a clear understanding of the tremendous impact improved health will have on the global economy. Global health and extreme poverty are inextricably linked. By increasing support for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to $275 million in fiscal year 2017, the United States can maintain its leadership in delivering lifesaving vaccinations that will prevent the deaths of up to three million people globally. In January 2015, the United States made a historic pledge to provide Gavi with $1 billion between fiscal years 2015 and 2018, and Congress’ budget recommendation proves continued commitment to making vaccinations globally accessible. Vaccines are among the most successful and effective approaches to improving global public health, and Congress’ appropriations recommendation is a testament to this.

{mosads}Congress exceeded President Obama’s request in other aspects of global health and showed renewed commitment by the US to eradicate polio. The Senate recommended “a total of not less than $59 million for polio eradication efforts, including not less than $7.5 million for programs for Pakistan and Afghanistan.” The House Appropriations Committee also recommended $59 million for programs to combat and eradicate polio. Such recommendations would maintain fiscal year 2016 funding levels. In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved efforts to provide the president’s request of $174 million, $5 million more than last year, for polio eradication programs through the CDC. The world has never been closer to eradicating polio and Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last two countries in which the disease remains. Eradication efforts funded in large part by U.S. programs have led to more than a 99% decrease in cases since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), an international partnership founded in 1988. Since that time the partnership has established a health care supply chain that delivers polio vaccine – and often other value-added health interventions – to more than 400 million children globally. This includes children living in some of the most vulnerable and complex areas of the world. Congress’ request to maintain steadfast efforts from fiscal year 2016 is critical to achieving the eradication of polio globally while laying a foundation that will continue to benefit health systems long after polio has been eradicated.

When it came to funding clean water, safe sanitation, and global education, Congress acted forcefully to increase funding levels, despite the president’s less than inspiring recommendations.

After President Obama submitted a request to cut the fiscal year 2016 budget for water and sanitation in half, Congress countered by maintaining funding for programs that aid the 663 million people lacking access to clean water. The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended, “$400 million for water, of which $145 million for Africa, $14 million for latrines in Africa and Asia.” The House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee draft also includes $400 million for water and sanitation programs. Although Congressional recommendations highlight the need for continued investments in Africa, it must be restated that neither amount accurately reflects the immensity of the clean water and sanitation crisis. As the country prepares to usher in a new administration, we call on the next president to set a new standard and prioritize increased funding for water and sanitation programs. Demonstrating commitment to water and sanitation signals not only dedication to public health, but also equality for girls and women. The stigma surrounding menstruation prevents girls from attending schools that lack functioning and separate toilets, and often girls are forced to sacrifice their education in order to travel long distances for water to bring back for their families. When one out of every three people worldwide lacks access to adequate sanitation, it is undeniably urgent for the United States to show leadership by allocating $425 million for water and sanitation programs.

Congress rose to the occasion for education when the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended maintaining fiscal year 2016’s budget for the Global Partnership for Education, and the House’s State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee recommended an increase of $5 million totaling a $75 million recommendation for the Global Partnership for Education. The work of the Global Partnership for Education is producing powerful results, enrolling 61 million more children in primary school since 2002. It is paramount that the US continues to show support for global education and provide every child the opportunity to lead a productive and fulfilling life.

The budget recommendations made by the Senate and House Appropriations committees reveal ongoing, bipartisan belief in US leadership on the international stage. By funding lifesaving programs and making strides toward overcoming the world’s greatest challenges, Congress is standing for the world’s poorest and calling on other nations to do the same.

Judith Rowland is U.S. Policy and Advocacy Manager for Global Citizen.


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