Throughout the last few months, we have seen mixed messaging from the White House regarding their support for the fight against malaria and the work of the United Nations. There have been welcome appointments of key malaria champions to important postings, including Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer’s appointment to the National Security Council and Ambassador Mark Green’s nomination to head USAID, as well as record levels of funding for malaria programs signed into law on May 4. These actions demonstrate that the Trump Administration could ultimately serve as a partner in the bipartisan effort to end malaria deaths.
However, some steps the Administration has taken do raise cause for deep concerns. The most recent budget proposal from the White House this week contains disproportionately large cuts to the foreign affairs budget overall, including significant cuts to malaria programs and to the UN. If enacted, the President’s Budget Request would reduce overall foreign affairs funding by 32 percent and cut base funding for malaria by $331 million—a 48 percent cut in overall funding.
While the Administration proposed offsetting a portion of the malaria cuts with leftover funds from the Ebola crisis, this budget would still leave our malaria programs $81 million below what the Congress and President agreed upon earlier this month. Furthermore, the substantial decrease to base funding proposed in the President’s Budget Request would make future program stability vulnerable, as the proposed offset is a one-time only solution. Although funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria was decreased to $1.125 billion, we appreciate the Administration’s recognition of keeping the U.S. on track to fulfill our pledge of $4 billion over the next three years. Such a decision illustrates the Administration’s recognition of the significance of the Global Fund and ensures that the U.S. commitment to global partners endures.
As the history of the fight against malaria has proven, decreasing funding and leadership, just as these programs are demonstrating tremendous success, is dangerous to the goal of malaria elimination. Such a decrease to malaria funding will greatly diminish the ability of the President’s Malaria Initiative, the Global Fund, the UN and other partners to reach their malaria elimination goals. And it will affect millions of lives.
Ultimately, Congress has much of the final say on the federal budget, and early reports show that the House and Senate are likely to reject these cuts to foreign affairs spending. However, that does not give us a reason to rest easy – it is important for us to work with Congress over the coming months to demonstrate that we want to continue to end malaria deaths and move closer toward elimination of the disease globally. This means continuing to prioritize robust U.S. funding to defeat malaria.