Thursday, April 30, 2009

Global Fund Protects Us All

Global Fund Protects Us All

A pediatric resident with tuberculosis treating 150 patients at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

A fourteen-year-old Zambian girl caring for three siblings because her parents died of AIDS.

A mother in India spreading a treated bed net over her children to protect them from malaria.

What do these scenes have in common? They are all reminders that diseases of poverty – AIDS, TB and malaria – are alive and well, even in our local communities.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is one of the world’s most effective tools for fighting these deadly diseases. It provides huge percentages of the international funding to combat them: 25% for AIDS, 66% for TB, and 75% for malaria. It distributes drug treatments and bed nets as well as providing essential support services. It shelters women disowned by husbands who infect them with AIDS. It teaches villagers to detect and treat malaria. It even protects Illinois residents by working to stop the spread of global TB.

Despite the Global Fund’s proven track record, by 2010 it is projected to be $5 billion short of its budget to continue future programs. While an increasing number of poor nations are seeing success and submitting high-quality grant proposals, donor nations – including the U.S. – are not meeting pledged funding levels. Without full funding this year and next, life-saving programs will be abruptly put on hold. Millions of lives will be at risk.

In the face of economic crisis, the temptation for developed nations to reduce support for the Global Fund is understandable, but inexcusable. They are penny-wise and pound-foolish. By not viewing their contributions as smart investments, donor nations ignore public health at their peril. If the Global Fund’s shortfall is allowed to continue, developed nations will only postpone the inevitable need to send even more aid to control the resurgence of disease. They will stifle global economic development as poor countries struggle with unhealthy workforces. Worse, the heaviest price will be paid if militaries must engage in more conflicts to stabilize areas where poverty has driven people to desperate acts of violence.

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Representative Mark Kirk (R-10th), and Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) have influence over global health funding as members of Foreign Operations subcommittees. They have been instrumental in increasing U.S. AIDS, TB and malaria contributions to the highest levels in history. The world is counting on their leadership once again.

Congress and the Obama administration have a chance in the coming supplemental appropriations bill to increase 2009 funding for the Global Fund by $1 billion. This increase would meet urgent needs, set the Global Fund on an upward trajectory and improve the U.S. image by proving we’re committed to multilateral, results-driven global health funding. Additionally, the Obama administration and Congress should work together to provide the U.S. fair share to the Global Fund for 2010: $2.7 billion.

From a financial perspective, the $1 billion for 2009 is less than one-third of the Merrill Lynch Christmas bonuses currently under investigation. Unlike irresponsible financial institutions and poorly-led auto companies coming to the taxpayer with their hands out, the Global Fund has succeeded beyond expectations in its mission to bring urgently-needed health services to the poor. It should be rewarded – not punished – for that success.

From a human perspective, a thriving Global Fund will mean children like 14-year-old orphan Catherine Phiri will be less likely to die from AIDS which claimed her parents. Mothers like Seema Paati will sleep under bed nets with their children without fear of contracting malaria. You and I will know our country used our tax dollars to protect us and honor our promise to the poorest people of the world.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Foreign Assistance Reform Bill Introduced by Berman and Kirk

I'm going out of my mind with excitement about this one, everybody! MARK KIRK INTRODUCED A FOREIGN ASSISTANCE BILL I'VE LOBBIED HIS OFFICE ON!!!!! Yeah! My Bread for the World church wrote him letters, my RESULTS group wrote him letters and went into his district office to lobby his district aide, I talked to his DC aide on the phone...and now I see how all this pays off when we have the big guns out in DC working their end. I honestly did not expect to see any movement on this until much later. I'm feeling really great doing my little part in this movement to push this big Foreign Assistance ship around. Thanks to everyone taking me on this journey with you!

Gotta go...lotsa work to do still...starting with a thank you letter to Congressman Kirk and a call to his aide!

Here's the scoop from Bread for the World today....
Bread for the World President Pushes for Support, Co-Sponsorship of New Foreign Aid Reform Bill

Washington, DC, April 29, 2009 –Rev. David Beckmann, president, Bread for the World, and co-chair, Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), today urged members of the House of Representatives to pass the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009 (H.R. 2139).

The bill was introduced last night by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA-28), chairman of the House foreign Affairs Committee and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10). It requires President Barack Obama to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy for global development, improve evaluation of development programs, and increase the transparency of U.S. foreign assistance to developing countries.

“It is a good initial step in making our nation’s foreign assistance more effective, efficient, and transparent,” said Rev. Beckmann. “Coordinating and improving our foreign assistance can have far-reaching effects on reducing hunger and poverty, making the world more politically stable. In turn, a more effective U.S. foreign assistance system would make for a more secure United States.”

Rev. Beckmann said that a comprehensive U.S. strategy for global development needs to be linked to an ongoing monitoring and evaluation system to determine what works and what does not. Requiring any agency that provides funding to post related information on a public website or other public forum will bring increased transparency and accountability to the people being served by these programs and to U.S. taxpayers.

Currently, U.S. global development policies and programs are scattered across 12 departments, 25 different agencies, and nearly 60 government offices. “In these difficult economic times, a more efficient foreign assistance system—with better coordination, better accountability, better clarity—will ensure that people get help faster and more effectively,” said Rev. Beckmann.

U.S. foreign assistance is still largely governed by a law passed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. “It is woefully outdated, inefficient, and ill equipped to provide the level of relief needed to address hunger and poverty in today’s more complex world,” said Rev. Beckmann. “U.S. foreign assistance has helped reduce child deaths, improve agricultural capacity, and increase school enrollment. But more lives can be saved if we improve how we deliver foreign aid. It will mean less waste and more impact for our tax dollars.”