A recent World Public Opinion poll showed that most Americans believe we spend 25% of the federal budget on foreign aid. Understandably, Americans think that is too large of a figure.
But how do you feel about 1%? If you knew that we spend less than 1% of the federal budget on foreign aid and just a small fraction of that funding dedicated to global health has saved the lives of millions of newborns and children struggling to survive in some of the poorest and most conflict-ridden communities in the world, what would you say then?
Some in Congress are calling for deep cuts in our modest global health spending to balance the budget.
The proposed cuts will have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable populations around the globe:
>> Almost 8 million fewer children could receive low-cost antibiotics to treat pneumonia – the leading killer of kids under five.
>> Over 12.5 million fewer children could receive oral rehydration salts that can help save many of the 1.2 million who die needlessly from diarrhea.
>> More than 7 million children could not be immunized against measles, tetanus, and pertussis.
"I believe there are ways to find the efficiencies we're all seeking, through being more businesslike in how we do our work, reining in contract partners and doing better program oversight. There's a way to do this that does not have to cost lives," USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah testified.
Investments by the U.S. and other wealthy nations have saved many tiny lives, but more than 8 million of the world's children under five still die every year. What’s most heartbreaking is that they largely die from causes that are preventable or treatable like pneumonia and diarrhea -- rarely causes of death in the U.S. And they die from complications at birth due to a lack of skilled health workers.
Our elected officials are deciding right now whether to put our modest foreign aid budget on the chopping block, and time is running out. We can’t afford to put the lives of millions of newborns, children, and mothers at risk. Take action and tell them that we can -- and must -- balance the budget some other way.
The U.S. has been a leader in developing the science behind, and delivery strategies for, low-cost, high-stakes interventions to families. In addition to the value of the lives saved, these programs serve America’s national security and long-term economic interests. U.S. programs to save children’s lives, address hunger, and educate young children around the world create stability, a fact that military leaders recognize. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently noted that international affairs programs are cost-effective as they help reduce the need for far more costly military interventions, saying, "It is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers."
The international affairs budget – only 1 percent of the overall budget – is truly a small, smart investment that yields big returns critical for strengthening U.S. national interests, keeping our promises to allies, and addressing the global challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
I strongly urge you to vote against cuts to the international affairs budget and continue proven investments in global development and humanitarian programs.