House Panel approves level funding for WASH in FY 2018

by Rebekah Revello

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations approved $47.4 billion for USAID, the State Department, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and related programs in the 2018 fiscal year, a sharp decline of nearly $10 billion from the 2017 fiscal year. However, the subcommittee also voted to keep funding for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programs (WASH) at $400 million, the same level it was in 2017. These recommendations will go through evaluation by the full House Appropriations Committee, but they are likely to reach the House of Representatives with little or no amendments. The bill will then go up against a yet-to-be-released different spending bill from the Senate, which will likely advocate for higher development funding than the House bill. Democrats did not seek to make any amendments to the subcommittee’s recommendations, but they have reaffirmed their promise to challenge any bills that cut the foreign aid budget when they are introduced on the House and Senate floors.

The recommended cuts are surprisingly lenient with regards to foreign development aid, considering the U.S. administration has been passionately advocating for steep and sweeping cuts to development aid since before the 2016 Presidential election. The recommendations are also surprising in their maintenance of WASH funding, but as USAID’s work plan for WASH is nearing a close- the Water and Development Strategy, which began in 2013, is set to end in 2018- the future of U.S. WASH development programs remains uncertain. IHC Global is pleased with the decision by the subcommittee to maintain the development funding for WASH programs, as adequate access to water, sanitation and hygiene remains one of the most widespread issues around the world, and investment in it enjoys support across party lines, as well as from other developed nations and private investors. However, by reducing overall development funding, this proposal shows a lack of understanding of the interconnections between different sectors of development; maintaining funding for WASH while cutting funding to other for programs in other sectors is likely to reduce the positive and lasting impact development programs could have otherwise.

IHC Global believes in addressing every development issue as an equally important part of the whole, and that investment in WASH will not create as concrete or lasting a change as it would if programs in areas such as housing, family planning, food security, climate resilience and other pressing issues were given the same support. It is worth noting that achieving global security-which has become a priority for the U.S. Administration-hinges upon creating an equitable, inclusive, and sustainable world for everyone, as much as it does on investing in security measures. Investing in international development can help build both an inclusive and safe world.

Read the Devex breakdown of the recommendations here.