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How Trump health cuts will hurt Kenya

Health & Science - By Gathonye Gatura | May 11th 2017 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300
US President Donald Trump. (Photo: AFP)

Kenya faces deeper US aid cuts in President Donald Trump's proposals to dismantle his country's foreign aid agency and for a 30 per cent cut in aid.

United States Agency for International Development (USAid) would fold and be placed under the State Department.

If endorsed by Congress, the move could spell doom for the proposed Sh65 billion ($626,367,000) worth of US aid to Kenya in 2017.

At least 87 per cent of the funding, equal to Sh55.6 billion, is proposed for the health sector, followed by Sh4.5 billion for economic development.

Two weeks ago, the US Foreign Policy magazine revealed a White House budget document proposing to merge USAid with the State Department.

The proposal, reported to have caused panic within the aid community, suggests a 30 per cent budgetary cut to foreign aid and the elimination of 30 to 35 of USAid's field missions.

On Tuesday, the Washington Diplomat magazine suggested the proposed arrangement could see close to 50 per cent of USAid missions abroad closed and staff cut in some of the central bureaus by 50 to 75 per cent.

By merging the two, the White House hopes to cure wastefulness and inefficiencies at USAid, and the threat may have precipitated the stopping of aid to Kenya.

USAid missions

Nairobi hosts one of the three major USAid missions in Africa; the others are in South Africa and Ghana.

Reacting to Trump's threat to cut funding to Africa, since last year there have been efforts to shore up the image of Kenya's Ministry of Health in Washington, which don't seem to be convincing the White House.

In February, the Pepfar 2017 Report to Congress, prepared by the US Global Aids Coordinator, presented Kenya as a glowing success in fighting HIV with US funding.

The report walked Congress through Kenyans' bruising battle with HIV since the 1990s, when the country recorded 17,133 deaths, breaking the 100,000 mark in 1998 and peaking at 132,736 deaths in 2003.

But the report shows things started looking up with the launch of Pepfar in 2003, after which deaths from HIV started declining, culminating in 35,754 reported in 2015.

With such a sterling track record, Pepfar pleaded with Congress to continue funding Kenya towards subduing HIV by 2030.

It is also notable that last December, a finance recovery report by Global Fund had given the Ministry of Health a clean bill of health after Kenya had finally refunded about $1.2 million in stolen funds.

The US-driven programme called Oral PreP targets 20,000 healthy individuals and will require massive mobilisation of funding as well as medical personnel mainly available at the ministry.

Staff remunerations are among functions affected by the USAid funding cut.

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