By Abubakar Jimoh
Recently, the humanitarian world was thrown into sober reflection by President Donald Trump’s decision to cut back global aid spendings by 32 percent as contained in his proposed budget plans for the fiscal year.
The decision, which was thankfully subjected to extensive criticism by both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature, was instantly denounced by a global movement—ONE Campaign, which through its works on good governance across the globe including Africa has been able to ascertain the detrimental impact such proposed plan will have on the existing efforts at successfully combating poverty, diseases and marginalisation, and boosting social investments, especially in Africa.
While the fundamental purpose of humanitarian aid by any government is to complement the efforts of a receiving nation at revitalising her social sector as well as uplifting the poor from extreme poverty, which renders them incapacitated to attain self-reliance and effectively fight diseases, the decision of Trump, if not instantly addressed and reversed, will without doubt, result in counter-productivity to the United States’ tracked and commendable records in supporting and sustaining enabling environment for political and socio-economic stability, particularly in Africa.
As a continent with emerging democracies and pervasive inadequate funding for the social sector, experiences have revealed that most African governments rely on international aids, which are largely secured from United States through various counterpart-funding agreements to augment their budgets for the social sector. A good example is the recent tripartite agreements among some Nigerian state governments, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Dangote Foundation to sustain the fight against dreaded polio virus, which was prevalent in northern part of the country owing to lack of funding for the procurement and administration of vaccines.
Meanwhile, working alongside the aforementioned donors, Global Alliance for Vaccine (GAVI) has been supporting African governments in routine immunisation through procurement and donation of polio vaccines, leading to a major success in the fight against polio virus in various parts of Africa including Nigeria
It is noteworthy to highlight that GAVI receives 79% of its funding from contributions by governments with United States as a key donor significantly contributing no lower than 9.2% amounting to US$ 800.0 million as at March 2017. That, according to GAVI, “will greatly enhance Gavi’s capacity to purchase and deliver life-saving vaccines for children and help in immunizing millions of children in developing countries against vaccine-preventable diseases, which claim 1.5 million lives every year”. The contribution as disclosed in an acknowledgment by GAVI was part of the US$ 814.5 million approved for USAID’s Maternal and Child Health programs for 2017.
Apart from direct financial aid to the governments, the sincere efforts of other agencies like USAID have been recognised and widely acknowledged most especially in promoting good governance through its project and activity labelled “Strengthening Advocacy and Civil Engagement” (SACE), which has helped to increase the capacity of citizens across the continent to be more involved in democratic reform processes by influencing institutions whose function are to serve the public interest.
Not only have funds from USAID assisted in enhancing participation of marginalized populations — such as women, youth and the disabled — and emphasizing the importance of leadership and innovation, the agency is famous in addressing developmental challenges in Nigeria by promoting political and socio-economic stability through improved social services, transparent and responsive government, and humanitarian assistance to crises-affected zone like North Eastern part of the country.
In 2011, a report entitled “U.S. Foreign Assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa: The FY2012 Request” published by Congressional Research Service, reveals a total bilateral U.S. development assistance from USAID and the State Department to sub-Saharan Africa amounting to an estimated $7.08 billion in 2012 as against $1.94 billion in 2002 Financial Year. The rapid increase in development assistance which was later explained in another corresponding report titled “Overview of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)” by Center for Global Development, was largely driven by global health spending, which concentrates on resources to combat the fast spreading HIV/AIDS primarily to 14 countries, 12 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Consequently, another major success has been recorded in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the region. An instance is Nigeria which in a 2016 report entitled “Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases: Where we are” published by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was applauded for the falling trend in HIV/AIDS satisfying the criteria for the attainment of Goal 6 of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Similarly, while HIV and AIDS have had a significant negative impact on life expectancy in South Africa, leaving many families and children economically vulnerable and often socially stigmatized, it has received the largest Anti-Retroviral Therapy programme in the world through the effort of United States PEPFAR and has contributed towards stabilizing HIV prevalence in Africa. This fact was buttressed in another study by the Science Desk of National Public Radio (NPR) that “PEPFAR, really, has saved a huge number of people’s lives. This has been one of the most effective public health interventions outside of clean running water, decent nutrition and vaccine programs. This has made an unbelievable difference”.
Moreover, of $48 billion to PEPFAR in 2008, $500 million was allocated to fight HIV/AIDS in Kenya. In fact, single biggest change for public health in Kenya was according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Kenya, achieved by the founding of PEPFAR.
It is also important to mention that in 2013, following a political crisis that claimed tens of thousands of South Sudanese lives and left about 4 million displaced, USAID had charted a strategy that increased humanitarian assistance and support for fundamental needs including access to water, health and education services. With continued support through direct service delivery and technical assistance, the agency has helped in saving South Sudan from deteriorating into famine conditions in addition to significant progress recorded in the quality, coverage, and impact of the national HIV/AIDS response.
Additionally, these facts were reiterated and highlighted when in Fiscal Year 2015 report, the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) could not conceal but to state that through available funds, USAID sustained provision of critical, life-saving assistance in response to conflict and displacement in South Sudan and Sudan’s Darfur Region; met conflict-related needs in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia; provided nutrition assistance in Kenya; and supported flood-affected communities in Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique.
The opposite of this backdrop is a clear indication of the horrific conditions Africans will be subjected to should President Trump get his proposed plans passed. We therefore call for a rethink on the proposed financial plans by President Trump.
Jimoh writes from Abuja