The United States Congress passed the fiscal year 2019 budget in Washington, DC, on Feb. 14, ending the longest government shutdown in US history.
President Donald Trump signed the new spending package into law, but it didn’t just ensure the government will remain open until Sept. 30, 2019 — a huge victory for federal workers and those affected by the shutdown. It also approved an increase of $35 million in funding for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) efforts around the world, as well as increases for international development, humanitarian assistance, education, and global health, according to a statement from the Millennium Water Alliance.
The new budget features seven bills that were introduced in 2018 but didn’t pass, including the WASH spending bump — the largest such increase since 2014, when the budget was set at $400 million per year and stayed there for three consecutive years. The new budget directs the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to spend a minimum of $435 million on WASH under the 2005 Sen. Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act and the 2014 Sen. Paul Simon Water for the World Act. It also specifically allocates $195 million for sub-Saharan Africa right off the bat.
Since 2016, @USAID in #Ghana has been working with 35 local @Rotary clubs & governmental agencies to improve WASH conditions for more than 75,000 people. #USAIDTransforms on the #DevJourney through these public-private partnerships @USAIDWaterhttps://t.co/ryGAuVJMDi— USAID Global Health (@USAIDGH) February 18, 2019
Between 2017 and 2018, 28,400, Global Citizens in the US and South Africa completed 53,500 actions to increase international affairs spending in 2019 for education and WASH programs that promote health and sanitation, as well as stability in communities around the world.
Trump previously claimed countries that receive US foreign aid “do nothing” in return, and has fought to gut foreign aid for three years. But in the new budget, he signed off on a slight international affairs budget increase, from $55.9 billion in 2018 to $56.1 billion for 2019.
Ethiopia is one country that will immediately benefit from the increase. The US has launched a five-year $40 million Health Financing Improvement Program to invest in expanding Ethiopia’s capacity to provide quality, affordable health care to its citizens. The funds will boost efforts to support maternal health, HIV/AIDS prevention and care, malaria treatment, nutrition, and WASH.
Diseases like HIV/AIDS, cholera and malaria disproportionately affect the world’s poorest populations. The budget dedicated to stopping neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) will be slightly expanded, from $100 million in 2018 fiscal year to $103 million in the 2019 fiscal year.
As part of the new spending bill, the Global Partnership for Education will also receive a $2.5 million funding increase to keep children in developing countries in school. Crises and humanitarian emergencies across the world stop 75 million children from learning, and half of them are young girls. Investing in education helps gives children a chance to reach their full potential and lift their communities up in the process.
But more work still needs to be done ––– development organizations, including the Millennium Water Alliance, are advocating to increase the foreign aid budget to $60 billion in 2020. It’s going to take more funds to combat the biggest threats to the world, from mass displacement like the Rohingya refugee crisis to deadly viruses like Ebola, the US Global Leadership Coalition said in a statement.
Ending extreme poverty by 2030 requires more international affairs spending to ensure children stay in school, asylum seekers receive protection, and people affected by famine can eat. Foreign aid not only strengthens US diplomacy and encourages democracy, it also supports sustainable development and promotes peace.