Ruth Messinger Ties Reform Message to AIDS Battle

Ruth MessingerRuth Messinger, President and Executive Director of American Jewish World Service — an MFAN Partner organization — last week issued an important call to action in a Huffington Post op-ed.  Messinger used a recent New York Times article, which reported the battle against the AIDS epidemic is failing, as a launching point to discuss foreign aid reform efforts.  She argued the Obama Administration should not choose to flat-line some programs while expanding others, and should instead engage on meaningful reform that would streamline U.S. foreign assistance and make it more effective.  Some excerpts follow:

“While the cost of AIDS treatment is significantly higher than the cost of rehydration tablets to treat diarrhea or the cost of mosquito nets to prevent malaria, it is impossible to quantify the cost-benefit of saving a child from malaria when her mother dies from AIDS.”

“One key lesson learned from fighting the AIDS epidemic is that taking a holistic approach to strengthening health systems is critical if we expect to have any chance of stemming the AIDS crisis. We must address childhood diseases, maternal health, and other essential public health issues that will have a broad and far-reaching impact on development. Through PEPFAR funding, the US has invested in building strong health workforces and health systems that do much more than just address AIDS. Shifting our focus to cost-effective — albeit vital — programs at the expense of holistic strategies that include fighting AIDS is neither strategic nor morally sound.”

“Instead of losing ground on one front in order to gain on another, we should explore creative methods to finance all the work that needs to be done by demanding a stronger commitment from global leaders and the US Congress. More broadly, we must support the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act (S. 1524) introduced in July 2009. The bill promotes global development, good governance, and a reduction of poverty and hunger. Specifically, the passage of S. 1524 will rebuild and strengthen strategic planning and human resources at USAID; address USAID operating expenses; increase accountability and transparency in US foreign assistance; and improve development coordination in the field.”

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