President’s Budget Request Mixed Picture: Raises Concern for Continued Progress for Mothers and Children Worldwide

Media Contact: Brendan Daly (202.794.1580)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 10, 2016) — The release of President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) budget yesterday sent a mixed signal on the prospects for continued progress for mothers and children around the world. Save the Children applauded the proposed increases in the Maternal and Child Health account, but the overall International Affairs budget declined slightly, and some accounts vital to the well-being of women and children across the globe took significant cuts.

“We commend the Administration’s support for the Maternal and Child Health account and its evidence-based interventions that result in real impact,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children. “But we also note the complementarity of investments in nutrition, humanitarian response, and food security. Cuts to these vital programs threaten the well-being of mothers and children around the globe — and take us further from a world where every child has a chance to survive and thrive.”

Indeed, the President’s budget provides $814.5 million for the Maternal and Child Health account, a $64.5 million (or 8.6%) increase from the FY16 omnibus. The budget, however, also includes $108.5 million for nutrition, a decrease of $16.5 million (or 13.2%) from the FY16 omnibus. With malnutrition a contributing factor to 45% of deaths among children under 5, this proposed cut to the nutrition account would impact the potential of children around the world. Strong investments in both accounts are needed to meet the shared goal of ending preventable maternal and child deaths by 2030.

“We can end preventable child deaths around the world in our lifetime,” noted Mark Shriver, President of the Save the Children Action Network, “but only if we accelerate the incredible progress to date. Now is not the time to cut back on fighting malnutrition – which is a cause in almost half of all deaths of kids under 5.”

Moreover, despite the rise in the number of crises unfolding around the globe, the President’s budget proposes funding of almost $1.1 billion less than last year’s funding levels. With ongoing crises affecting children around the world in places like Syria, Yemen, and Ethiopia, the U.S. should be stepping up its commitment to humanitarian response programs that save lives in regions plagued by conflicts and food crises.

“Humanitarian assistance programs protect children in times of crisis when they are at their most vulnerable,” said Carolyn Miles. “We have more people displaced from their homes than at any time in human history; we can’t turn our backs on these kids.” Save the Children did welcome the President’s continued request for more flexibility to address the complex food emergencies in the protracted crisis in the Middle East and needs elsewhere that cannot be addressed through the delivery of in-kind food commodities. The Administration estimated this would enable them to reach an additional 2 million people who need help.

Increasingly, the entire international affairs budget seems to be in a precarious position as more of the core funding shifts out of the base account.  The past few years have seen the growth of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding and the decline of the core enduring International Affairs budget. Using OCO as a work-around to the cuts imposed on the International Affairs budget has had the short-term effect of preserving U.S. funding to critical crises and other emergencies. However, OCO now represents slightly less than one-third of the International Affairs budget. Given that OCO was only intended as a temporary stopgap, significant concerns exist about the viability of this option in the coming years.

With challenges around the globe, now isn’t the time to let up on U.S. international engagement and funding for accounts impacting mothers and children.

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Save the Children Action Network is the political voice for kids. We believe that every child deserves the best start in life. That’s why we’re building bipartisan will and voter support to make sure every child in the U.S. has access to high-quality early learning and that no mother or child around the globe dies from a preventable disease or illness. By investing in kids and holding leaders accountable, we are helping kids from birth to age five survive and thrive.