Note: This is a guest post by Malaka Gharib, who manages the ONE Blog and works on ONE’s new media team. Before joining ONE, she was a producer at Al Jazeera English television and contributed to the network’s coverage of the 2008 US presidential election and the War on Gaza.
If you’re reading this blog post, chances are that you probably care about what’s happening in the world of international development and aid. And because of that, you’ve probably been hit over the head a thousand times with this statistic: less than 1 percent of our government spending goes toward foreign aid.
But you probably didn’t know that a whopping 63 percent of Americans believe that the government spends more on defense and foreign aid than it does on Medicare and Social Security – which is completely wrong. In fact, Americans think that we spend an average of 27 percent on foreign aid – that’s more than what we spend on our military budget. And don’t even talk to me about GDP. Our GDP ranks No. 1, yet in 2009, we ranked in seventh place for aid funding.
It angers me that Congress is targeting foreign aid spending (of all things) for major cuts this year. That 1 percent funds important programs that save lives and advocate peace, stability and security beyond our borders. Even though it makes up a tiny percentage of our budget, we’ve been able to maximize that funding and put it toward effective programs like USAID, PEPFAR and the Global Fund that are helping to make a real difference in fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease.
Yet there have been proposals to bring down the bill that funds US diplomacy and assistance to poor countries by 17 percent from FY2010 amounts, including a 30 percent cut to development assistance from last year’s amount, a $450 million cut to the Global Fund and a 41 percent cut to humanitarian aid for disaster relief.
Let me translate these figures into human lives for you. If the Global Fund loses its funding, up to 58,286 HIV-positive pregnant women will not receive treatments to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. About 6 million treatments for malaria will not be administered. 372,000 testing and treatments for tuberculosis will be halted. And 414,000 people living with HIV/AIDS will not be provided the antiretroviral medication they need to survive. As you can see, this is truly a matter of life and death.
But here’s the thing – you can do something about this right this very moment. Tell your senator to SAY NO to the budget cuts. We know Congress faces tough choices on the budget, but these cuts fall hardest on the people who can least afford them. Join more than 95,000 ONE members and sign our petition.
Photo: Patient in Nairobi, Kenya who receives ARVs thanks to the Global Fund. His son, Isaac (in photo) was born HIV free thanks to their PMTCT program. His wife is also positive.
Photo credit: © ONE | Morgana Wingard