Several weeks ago, the Trump administration released its 2017-2018 budget proposal, which included major cuts to foreign aid. The details of these cuts were hazy, but now a leaked State Department report is showing the full implications of the reduction, on a country-by-country basis. And the potential impact on the world’s most vulnerable people — women and children, especially — is staggering.
The 15-page document, obtained by Foreign Policy magazine, shows the breadth and depth of the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to foreign aid. Under the new budget proposal, US foreign spending on health would be cut by roughly 25% in total, the Bureau for Food Security would lose more than two-thirds of its funding, and the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs would be nearly eliminated.
According to the report, the Trump administration would also merge the State Department with USAID, which could have major implications for how foreign aid is distributed — emphasizing security programs that promote US interests, while minimizing funding for health and human development.
The proposal to roll USAID into the State Department may signal the Trump administration’s intention to govern international affairs based off “hard power” (military), rather than “soft power” (social and economic) means.
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Across the board, these cuts would have adverse consequences for women and children who rely on US funding for healthcare and family planning.
In all, 41 developing countries face significant health cuts under the proposed budget, including South Sudan, Yemen, and Nigeria, all of which are currently suffering from or at risk of famine.
Liberia, which suffered from the ebola outbreak in 2014, would lose over half of its funding. That includes over $10,000 in funding for global health programs, and more than $20,000 in economic assistance.
“There’s just no question people would die from this,” Tom Kenyon, the CEO of Project Hope, told Foreign Policy.
A State Department official, who responded to an inquiry from Axios, said: “While more details will be available in the full budget release later this spring, we intend to make the best use of U.S. taxpayer dollars by eliminating programs and prioritizing resources that most advance America's interests.”
In many cases, USAID funding for health and development assistance would experience major cuts, while State Department health funding and economic assistance would expand slightly.
The USAID Development and Humanitarian Assistance Budget covers a wide range of issues critical to alleviating extreme poverty, including: ending preventable child deaths, enhancing science and technology in developing countries, and providing humanitarian assistance in emergencies.
“What you’re basically doing is eviscerating the most important tool of American influence in the developing world, which is our development program,” Andrew Natsios, the former USAID Administrator under President George W. Bush, said of the proposed merger of the State Department and USAID.
Globally, the United States provides millions of dollars in key funding for family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention (you can visualize the extent of US foreign health assistance here) through USAID and other foreign assistance programs.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration withheld all funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides prenatal care to pregnant women, along with reproductive assistance and family planning.
According to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, the United States was the largest donor to family planning and reproductive health in the world. Nonetheless, more than 300,000 women die each year in developing countries because of complications during childbirth, the Foundation reported. This number could increase under the proposed cuts.
The report reveals that some countries will lose all development assistance, including: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
In Malawi, for example, the USAID development assistance budget of around $46,000 has helped to that country work toward ending gender-based violence and ensuring gender equality. USAID programs in Malawi also keep girls in school, reduce CO2 emissions, and improve access to water and sanitation services, all of which save lives in the short- and long-term.
Other countries outside of Africa that would experience major cuts in US foreign assistance include Ukraine, which would see a more than 68% decrease in US aid — potentially pushing that country to closen ties with Russia.
In Latin America, countries like Guatemala, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic — three of the poorest countries in the hemisphere — would see major cuts. After Hurricane Matthew left a wave of devastation across Haiti, USAID development assistance was used to help communities rebuild and recover.
“We’re going to see a lot of deaths that will be easily preventable actually come to fruition,” warned John Norris, a former USAID employee, told Foreign Policy.