United States – Allocations for foreign programs in the budget revealed by the US Congress members totaling USD 2 trillion on Thursday included military spending, aid to Israel, and an extension of the PEPFAR, the program that helps to save lives from AIDS, as reported by Reuters.

Appropriations Address Funding Restrictions

Reuters reported on Tuesday that the State Department Appropriations bill continues to prohibit US funding for UNRWA, the main UN agency supporting Palestinians, for at least a year. It cuts off the funding for the UN Commission of Inquiry against Israel, which is fully funded, as well as the annual US security commitment for Israel, which is USD 3.3 billion.

According to the administration of United States President Joe Biden, in January, UNRWA temporarily stopped funding new projects because Israel accused 12 of the agency’s 13,000 Gaza employees of participating in the deadly Hamas raid on October 7.

Supporters of the aid have been vying to get it restored and urging the capital to end the funding gap and thus help the aid agencies fighting famine in Gaza.

UNRWA Funding

Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat who had the position that UNRWA is important to save lives, commented the decision was an “unconscionable” one because of the huge humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“UNWRA is the primary means of distributing desperately-needed assistance in Gaza – so denying funding for UNRWA is tantamount to denying food to starving people and restricting medical supplies to injured civilians,” he said in a statement.

Extension of PEPFAR Program

The State Department funding bill would also extend for one year the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR was initiated in 2003 by Republican President George W. Bush and achieved bipartisan support until recently. Congress reauthorized the Medicare prescription drug program by unanimous consent of both Republicans and Democrats five and a half years ago.

However, this time, opponents who wanted to outlaw abortion rights were against a five-year extension. Supporters say PEPFAR does not fund or perform abortions and that it never uses its money to back abortion services, directly or indirectly.

The State Department claims more than 100 billion dollars have been spent on the global response to AIDS which, also the program has resulted in 25 million lives saved.

The Defense Appropriations bill includes a USD 886 billion in annual military spending for fiscal 2024 – the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was passed, last year.

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