By Jenny Howell
It’s not even March, and already I’m being bombarded with reminders of the looming April 15 deadline for filing my taxes. While I join the masses of everyday Americans getting ready to take a look at last year’s expenses, crossing my fingers for a tax return and deciding what to change and what to keep in my budget, members of Congress are going through a similar process that will be just as painful if not more so. With the recent release of the White House budget, appropriations season has officially begun, and members of Congress will start making arguments for or against certain spending allocations and spending lines.
The US government is the second largest single funder in the global fight against malaria, second only to the Global Fund, to which the US is a major donor. The good news is that our money is making a difference—a HUGE difference. The World Health Organization estimates that 670 million cases and 4.3 million malaria-related deaths were averted between 2001 and 2013 globally—amazing progress that should make all Americans proud.
In the coming months both chambers of Congress will be presenting their own budget proposals, which will include recommendations on how much money they think the US should be spending to fight malaria. While appropriations debates can get heated, we’re glad that so many members in both parties are strong supporters of the US government’s leadership in fighting malaria. US contributions toward malaria control and elimination via the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the Global Fund, as well as funding towards continued research and development through agencies like the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense, all remain a critical part of the global fight.
Not only will it be up to Congress to provide robust funding to the accounts that support our fight against malaria, they will also need to end the harmful automatic sequester cuts, that unless otherwise changed will go into effect next year. We’ll be looking to champions like Senator Lindsey Graham, Chairman of the Senate State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee (who decides how much funding the US gives to global health programs under the State Department and USAID), to protect US investments. At a recent Congressional hearing on the US National Security Strategy, Senator Graham said, “If you think sequestration is bad for the military, you ought to see what it does to our capability to engage the world peacefully. It absolutely destroys it, which is insane. We’re on the verge of eradicating malaria . . . we’re making great progress in AIDS and polio, and all this stuff really does matter in my view.” We share the same view as Senator Graham, and our team will be working with members of Congress and their staff to make sure they have all the facts when making budget decisions.
Deciding on a budget is never easy, whether for a household or the nation. But with so much progress made against malaria, and with the dramatic benefits it has for our national security and foreign relations, I for one would be happy to see a few more of my tax dollars going towards finishing this fight.
To learn more about how we think the US government should prioritize spending for malaria and global health, check out InterAction’s 2016 recommendations and their upcoming Choose to Invest document.
For a great analysis of global financing for malaria and how the US is contributing, see the Kaiser Family Foundation’s report here.
Jenny Howell is a Senior Policy and Advocacy Associate at PATH and co-chair of the Washington DC-based Malaria Roundtable advocacy group. She works across PATH and with partner organizations to actively reach out to Congress, helping members of both houses make informed decisions about America’s role in the fight against malaria.