The Power of 1%

October 6, 2011 By Ashley Redjinski

This week, USAID and coalition partners PSI, World Vision, PATH, and FHI 360 came together to host the “Power of 1%.”  This three-part series of discussions highlighted the importance of the International Affairs Budget, which accounts for less than 1% of the overall federal budget, and the benefits the American people receive from this critical investment.

The first group of panelists emphasized the correlation between global health and strong economies. Dr. Halima A. Mwenesi, FHI 360’s Senior Project Director for the Malaria Action Program for States (MAPS) project in Nigeria, used malaria vaccinations in Africa as an example of effective and life-saving aid.  If vaccination initiatives are improved and amplified, formerly sick children can go back to school and their mothers can get back to work.  Healthy individuals are better equipped to create a secure and stable environment for new and creative strategies, and, as Dr. Mwenesi points out “only healthy people can grow markets.”  These emerging markets provide export and investment opportunities for American businesses, and once malaria levels are under control, more money is available to treat other prevalent diseases.  Investment in global health not only saves lives, it also pays huge dividends in the long run, in terms of economic growth and security.  When we invest in global health, everybody wins.

In addition to strengthening economies, U.S. leadership in global health initiatives promotes national and global security.  Poor and developing countries are often the birthplace of unstable communities and extremist ideologies.  Dr. Otto Chabikuli, Deputy Chief of Party of the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative Nigeria project, pointed out that they serve as “fertile ground” for terrorist networks. To prevent extremist ideology from taking root in this soil, we must invest in the economic, social, and health initiatives of developing countries. If we succeed in creating healthy communities where children can get an education and adults can find work, we can make the world a safer place.  Global health initiatives are particularly effective in African nations where diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS are rampant. USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Global Health Amie Batson reminded us that “diseases don’t think in terms of borders,” and spread from country to country through advancements in travel and technology.  For that reason, health assistance abroad helps to keep U.S. citizens healthy and safe.

In order to rally support for the International Affairs Budget here at home, the panelists noted the need for accurate measurements and accountability. If Americans can see clear and accurate reports of where their money is going and what impact it is having, they are more likely to be convinced of the positive effects of U.S. investment in global health.

Programs funded by the International Affairs Budget have already had a major impact in recipient countries. Our initiatives have significantly decreased the number of people with HIV/AIDS and have allowed affected individuals access to proper medication. It is imperative that we do not stop investing in global health, as to do so could reverse the progress that has already been made. What’s more, these initiatives can be maintained with an investment of only 1% of the budget. Other nations are already investing a greater percentage of their funding than we are. If we cut back now, they will take the lead, causing us to lose not only our political influence, but our positive image abroad.