The International Women’s Health Coalition is alarmed by the Trump Administration’s call to slash funding for development assistance and global health, as reported today by Foreign Policy. US development assistance is a lifeline for women and girls around the world. Whether through specific programming on women’s economic empowerment, girls’ education initiatives, child marriage, sexual and reproductive health care, or violence, the United States has been a critical partner for women and girls. US funding and leadership have helped millions of women and girls take control of their health, education, and lives, enabling them to direct their own futures. These devastating cuts to global health programs and the zeroing out of the budget for the Office of Global Women’s Issues would reverse decades of progress.
Cuts to development assistance have nothing to do with balancing the budget or “putting America first.” Less than 1 percent of the federal budget is spent on foreign assistance, making cuts an ineffective way to reduce deficits. Furthermore, development aid has shown impressive returns on investment. In fact, 11 of America’s top 15 trading partners were once recipients of US foreign aid. Further, every dollar invested in family planning results in a $90 to $150 return. With relatively modest investments, the US Government is able to empower women and girls and promote gender equality, provide healthcare, stabilize communities, and create viable economies—the type of progress that is in America’s security interests. The Trump Administration is instead proposing to shift money from development and health to the military and programs that would serve the short-term economic interests of the United States. This would undercut the US’s role as a moral leader around the world and the American values of equality, democracy, justice, and human rights.
While the figures released today may preserve funding for the US Government’s global AIDS program, PEPFAR, its effectiveness will be undermined by the application of the Trump Global Gag Rule. When combined with what appear to be significant cuts to family planning and reproductive health, the Administration’s proposed foreign assistance budget would take its greatest toll on women and girls. The Administration’s approach also runs counter to the global consensus of prioritizing women’s rights to build a more equitable world, as laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Decision-makers within the Administration must urgently rethink the changes suggested in the Fiscal Year 2018 Control Levels. Members of Congress must stand up against these drastic, disastrous, and deadly cuts. Women’s and girls’ lives are on the line.
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