global health

Partners in Health Expresses Apprehensions over Foreign Aid Cuts

As I recently posted, I have started to read Tracy Kidder’s book on the life and work of Dr. Paul Farmer. I have also shared the concerns expressed by billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates about the cuts in foreign aid proposed by President Trump in the 2018 US Budget Blueprint. These two seem to have come together in today’s update, where the Partners in Health blog has come up with a post expressing apprehensions over the deep cuts proposed in the America First budget. The simple, yet attention-grabbing title of the post reads: Our Patients Will Die Without Foreign Aid.

maga budget

Like most people voicing their concerns over these cuts, the PIH blog expresses outrage at the scrapping of the international aid programs, which, they point out, has survived through both Republican and Democrat federal leaders.

Partners In Health is gravely concerned about deep and significant cuts in United States overseas development assistance in the budget proposed by President Donald J. Trump. As much of this aid is for health in some of the world’s poorest countries, these cuts will have a devastating impact on millions of people throughout the world. In short, people will die. Children will lose their parents. And whole communities, economies, and even nation states will be disrupted without the U.S.’s vital support of health programs in the developing world.

In the last 15 years, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, the U.S. has led a historic and highly successful fight to combat AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. The efforts of the U.S. to support health in the developing world have been overwhelmingly bipartisan. The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), initiated by President George W. Bush in 2003, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, financed 30 percent by the U.S. government, marked a new era in the global commitment to people-centered development. They are responsible for more than 17 million people receiving life-saving AIDS treatment and millions of new infections averted. These are people who now can work and support their families, gain education and skills, and live long, healthy lives.

Building on the current President’s successful and catchy mantra of “Make America Great Again”, the post states: “For many people around the world, our foreign aid efforts are what make America great.”

PIH is also likely be badly hit by the proposed cut of almost US$6 billion to the NIH, from which it receives a lot of funding for their programs in Peru. Additionally, the post expresses concerns that PEPFAR and GFATM, which have, till now, remained outside the ambit of the deep budget cuts, could also succumb to such policies diverting funds to military development in the US.

Whilst the role of foreign aid from developed nations in building up a response to health calamities in countries like Haiti and Peru (in the case of PIH) is massive, I still think that this model of “redistributive justice” is slightly unsustainable. Whilst it is the responsibility of the more fortunate ones to lend a helping hand to those straggling behind, it does tend to rile up populations within the developed nations who view themselves as oppressed and who consider their tax payers going towards nation building elsewhere to be a preposterous idea. Piggybacking on the wave such sentiments, candidates like President Trump have ridden into the pantheons of power. While such feelings are understandable, it does cause the hardships of many low- and middle-income nations more difficult to bear. Whether the vocal outpouring of anguish over these cuts does anything to moderate their impact or whether this goes down as a popular decision with the working classes of America remains to be seen. But whatever happens, is likely to shape the direction of international aid-funded development work globally in the days to come.

This post, originally published by the Partners in Health site on Medium, was authored by Dr. Joia Mukherjee, the Chief Medical Officer at PIH.

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