East Africa: Health Overtakes Democracy as US spending in East Africa Drops

United States government assistance intended to grow democracy in the region has dropped in favour of health projects, resulting in a drop in its spending in the region by half — from $2.97 billion in 2015 to $1.55 billion last year. This comes as the US is proposing a 30.8 per cent cut to its overall foreign aid budget, according to a State Department budget document seen by The East African. The budget proposal eliminates all funding through the development assistance account in all the countries in the region, a vote that has benefited education and water projects. According to data from Foreign Assistance, a US government agency that tracks its development aid, US aid to the region has dropped over the past three years despite its planned spending remaining high. This year, Washington plans to spend $3.06 billion in the region, a drop from $3.75 billion two years ago, even though what it actually spent was lower. Kenya’s health sector was set to be the biggest beneficiary in the aid spending, with a planned spending of more than $1.68 billion in the past three years, but in the end it only received $530 million. In 2015, the American administration expressed displeasure with the handling of its health funds under the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) programmes jointly run with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), after it emerged that more than $7 million in funding had been spent in half the budget period. In an earlier interview with The EastAfrican, CDC Kenya country director Dr Kevin De Cock said the improprieties were a cause of concern, especially around the signing of new agreements. “Once the current discussion that we have, which is about financial management, and the report, is out, I believe we can have the discussion on collaborations. We are coming to a conclusion on how to move forward with technical co-operation and support. We are also consulting on how to ensure financial management is done properly. We cannot have a repeat of this experience; so things may change,” Dr De Cock said. In 2015, when the loss of funds was revealed, the US scaled back its health sector aid to the country to $94.6 million from $435.6 million the previous year, showing the significance of the governance concerns raised.

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