By Crystal Lander, Chief Strategic Engagement Officer
This week, when Congress stripped vital appropriations from the fiscal year 22 appropriations omnibus bill, lawmakers missed an opportunity to make transformational changes for women, girls, and the communities where they live, work, and thrive around the world.
We went into the appropriations process full of optimism and successfully worked with Congress to include significant advances for sexual and reproductive health and rights such as a permanent repeal of the Global Gag Rule and increased funding for international family planning programs and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Our hopes were dashed when the final product was released and all of these provisions were stripped from the measure. Once again, women and girls were left behind and critical health care for millions of people was sacrificed.
If that wasn’t enough disappointment, House members also dropped a $15.6 billion coronavirus relief supplemental from the package over disagreements on how to offset its cost. It’s a second devasting blow to what we saw as a historic opportunity for change in the lives of Americans and global citizens everywhere. The COVID Supplement included a modest but critical $5 billion global COVID-19 funding package. We know Congressional leadership aims to continue their work on a COVID Supplemental funding measure and we urge lawmakers to remember that while other world events are dominating the news cycle, COVID is not over. Billions of people around the world remain unvaccinated and the pandemic will not end anywhere until it ends everywhere.
We will continue to press Congress to right this wrong. There is strong bipartisan and bicameral support for resourcing the global COVID-19 response. Without additional funding, vaccines will not reach people who desperately need them. Without additional funding, we risk eroding the progress we have made by welcoming additional variants that will threaten the progress across global health, development, and humanitarian initiatives we have struggled to achieve.
We know that this Congress and this Administration have committed to reestablishing the United States as a global leader on these important matters. Now more than ever, it is time for us to put words into action and pass this additional critical funding. We have come too far, sacrificed too much, and watched too many around the globe die unnecessarily to turn back now.