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While uncertainty looms, what is certain, according to aid groups, is the impact of the federal cuts overseas:
3 million children can’t go to school.
2.1 million people can starve without food aid.
1 million children won’t get vaccines.
175,000 people won’t receive antiretroviral vaccines
Who’s going to be that starving kid is another issue altogether. And it depends on how USAID chooses which programs to cut and which country suffers from the cut.
“The challenge, of course, is for USAID having to prepare for an ever-changing-but-never-resolved budget. And that can’t be easy for any agency,” said Sarah Jane Staats, director of policy outreach at the Center for Global Development. “Some of the federal agencies whose entire mission is based on personnel is going to be much more difficult. I think USAID will have a little flexibility in the program side but not much.”
USAID should choose wisely among the myriad of projects and programs it’s implementing around the world.
“I think the first place to look would be looking for cases where USAID has programs where the presence is going to be costly in terms of having USAID staff in a country and the program fund is relatively small and maybe not garnering the biggest impact,” Staats said.
Her suggestion echoes what USAID has in mind.
Last year, Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg told Devex: “This is a period where we’re going to have to focus and concentrate our efforts, and that’s part of what we’re doing right now, which is to eliminate some of our smaller programs where we cannot show development results.”
The ongoing budget crisis, Staats said, forces USAID to think.
“It could help them make some of the tough decisions that they wanted to make in the past but haven’t been able to,” she said.
Still, the game is not entirely played by USAID alone.
“A lot of it depends on the rules of the game that are coming from beyond USAID in terms of where the cuts will come from and how much flexibility the USAID will have in applying those,” Staats said.