The Power of US Foreign Aid

This article originally appears in the latest edition of PSI’s Impact Magazine. Sign up to receive it today.

Polls show that the American public believes that 25 percent of the U.S. federal budget is spent on foreign aid. In reality, this figure is less than 1 percent. Given the tremendous achievements, progress, and most importantly, the lives our country has saved through strategic financial investments in global health programs, now – more than ever – it is critical that we continue to invest in these effective and innovative interventions.

In October, PSI Global Ambassador Mandy Moore highlighted the immense power of foreign aid. She met with members of both chambers and later participated in a congressional briefing panel hosted by PSI, FHI 360 and PATH to emphasize the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) achievements over the past 50 years. Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, assistant administrator of the Global Health Bureau at USAID, joined the panel to share the agency’s commitment to global health and ongoing impact around the world.

In 2011 alone, the U.S. provided care and support to nearly 13 million people, including more than 4.1 million orphans and vulnerable children. Each year, this funding prevents nearly 115,000 infants from being born with HIV, saves 3 million lives through USAID’s immunization programs, and has helped bring safe drinking water sources to 1.3 billion people over the last decade.

PSI is proud to be a partner of USAID. Our continued commitment to healthy children and youth is unwavering. One example of PSI’s leadership on these issues is reflected by my recent election as chair of the U.S. Coalition for Child Survival, which is dedicated to improving the survival and healthy development of our world’s children. Through involvement with stakeholder partnerships, we have the opportunity to work together to advance our common goals to help others and save lives.

In this tough economic climate, the percent of the U.S. federal budget spent on overall foreign aid has continued to decrease from $52.4 billion for international affairs programs in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 to $42.3 billion in FY12. Global health, while still less than 1 percent of the budget, fared favorably in FY12 with a total of $8.3 billion for programs, a $500 million increase from FY11. The U.S. government recognized the necessity of fighting deadly health epidemics by providing much-needed funding for maternal and child health, water and health, and nutrition, to name a few.

Funding for malaria programs increased to $650 million, a $31.2 million increase from FY11. As the largest malaria control implementing organization in the world, PSI strongly supports the increase. The conference legislation also allocates $95 million for nutrition, up $5.2 million from FY11. Furthermore, the bill provides $605.6 million for maternal and child health and $236 million to combat tuberculosis, both up from FY11.

Recent reductions in financial assistance for global health epidemics by a number of governments have had a tremendous impact on people around the world. For instance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria had to recently cancel the 11th round of disease-control funds. Over the past decade, the Global Fund has helped keep alive approximately 3.2 million people on antiretroviral treatment, financed 8.2 million courses of TB treatment and distributed 190 million insecticide-treated nets.

If we continue to see cuts to these life-saving programs, we must recognize the significant impact that these reductions will have on the lives of the most vulnerable populations around the world. We have made tremendous progress by investing wisely and strategically. As Americans, we have a unique moral obligation to help invest in programs that will cost us little and help us save lives, see communities grow and thrive – which brings about political stability, economic growth and strong national security.

– PSI Author: Annie Toro, Governmental Affairs Manager, Washington, D.C.