Water expert: Moving Agency for International Development account would defund key programs | TheFencePost.com

Water expert: Moving Agency for International Development account would defund key programs

A Trump administration proposal to shift the development assistance account at the U.S. Agency for International Development to the State Department would result in the defunding of key development programs, a prominent expert on water, sanitation and hygiene said as aid groups released their annual Global Nutrition Report.

"Everyone of us up here would be defunded if that were to happen," said Lisa Schechtman, the director of policy and advocacy at WaterAid America, the U.S. member of Water Aid International, the largest nongovernment organization dedicated to providing safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services in developing countries.

Schechtman made the statement while participating in a panel discussion of the Global Nutrition Report, which focused on how countries can meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through improved nutrition.

In an interview after the discussion, Schechtman said she may have exaggerated slightly, but that she is concerned that a proposal that was in the first Trump budget will be included in the administration's next budget.

Schechtman acknowledged that Congress rejected the proposal but is concerned that it might gain more serious consideration the second time around.

The USAID development assistance account, she said, covers agriculture, gender, basic education and well as water, sanitation and hygiene, she said.

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The State Department has an economic support fund but it is focused on fragile situations such as natural disasters and countries emerging from conflicts and is not viewed as the account for long-term development of poor countries, she added.

Jessica Fanzo, a professor of global food and agricultural policy at the Johns Hopkins University who is co-author of the report, said "Progress on global nutrition targets is slow or moving backwards" with stunting, anemia in women of reproductive age and overweight adult women remaining major issues.

During the discussion, Kavita Sethuraman, the specialist in food and nutrition technical assistance for Project III and FHI 360, said that conflict situations are causing girls to marry earlier and that adolescent pregnancy is not declining in some places.

Sethuraman also said, while there is a big focus on communicating with women, "it is impossible to reduce stunting without taking men into account" so that they will reallocate tasks so women can breastfeed children."