US embassy to engage Trump on Zim funding cuts

HARARE - The United States (US) embassy in Harare will be reaching out to President Donald Trump not to slash foreign aid to Zimbabwe, ambassador Harry Thomas Jnr has said.

This comes as Trump has proposed large cuts to foreign aid at a time of acute need in Zimbabwe.

The details of Trump’s budget proposal have not been released, and so far, US funding for the hunger and health crises in Africa has come out of a budget approved last year under ex-President Barack Obama.

Responding to a question on Thursday whether the move would affect Zimbabwe during a tour of Musasa Project — a recipient of US aid — Thomas said they would be negotiating with Washington.

“We will have to see what our administration wants to do, but our messages to Washington will be: look at performance and results. In Zimbabwe, HIV and Aids, we have reduced that greatly from 25 per cent to just over 12 percent prevalence. So, it has been effective use of American tax payers’ money.

“We are humanitarians, and in feeding food-insecure people, we do that without regard to nationality. We are the world’s oldest democracy; we want to help sustain democracies in every country.

“And I think every American that we speak to would want us to continue to find ways to help projects like Musasa,” Thomas — a former director-general of the Foreign Service at the US State Department said. 

“ . . . We are very proud that the US government is the largest donor to Zimbabwe, that we are giving a $150 million each year to combat HIV/Aids, another $150 million to feed 2,1 million food-insecure people of the 4,8 million in Zimbabwe, $10 million for democracy and governance; and of course, we are one of the leading, if not the leading, provider of fellowships and scholarships with over 1 300 Zimbabweans studying in the United States.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget proposed cuts of 37 percent at two agencies that provide US foreign aid, as part of Trump’s plan to fund an increase in defence spending, according to reports.  The State Department and USAid had requested more than $50 billion for 2017.

Thomas said Zimbabwe would help this endeavour by improving human rights and democracy and the holding of violence-free and credible election 

“We have increased funding every year for the last 15 years under president (George) Bush and president (Barack) Obama, we have to see where we are going with (president) Trump. Our message to Zimbabwean government is we support and encourage economic reform, the Lima process, we would hope that will continue.

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