The U.S. government may be shut down but it’s still doling out large sums of taxpayer dollars to foreign causes that American citizens may not consider a priority. In the last few days alone, Uncle Sam dedicated millions of dollars in grants to projects that include helping socially vulnerable youth in crime-ridden Costa Rican communities, tackling an AIDS epidemic in Mozambique, improving health in Nigeria and surveilling “important diseases in Senegal.” There are plenty more with details posted this month on the government’s grant website which says that, during a lapse in federal appropriations, the system will “remain in an operational status.”
Just yesterday hundreds of thousands of dollars were allocated to the Costa Rican youth project and the Mozambique AIDS program. The U.S. feels obligated to help Costa Rican youths tempted to quit school and join a crime gang, according to the grant announcement. “In vulnerable communities, poverty and lack of opportunities are factors that make young people quit school and start working or join a crime gang,” it reads. “Efforts from local governments have been concentrated in getting these demographic opportunities to finish high school and get a job. This is key to reduce crime and youth involvement in the narcotraffic chain.” The document offers a history of the Central American nation’s sustained increase in violent crime, mainly associated with drug trafficking. This includes a surge in homicides and the use of illicit drugs. To save the vulnerable youth, American taxpayers will spend $150,000 on an experimental, one-year program. “National and international data show that many Costa Rican communities are in significant need of assistance as they continue to experience a myriad of serious drug problems,” the grant announcement says.
The government also announced yesterday that it is dedicating $274,676 to counter a growing epidemic of HIV and AIDS in Mozambique, where around 13% of the population is infected with the sexually transmitted disease. The magnitude of the AIDS epidemic and the African country’s “health infrastructure” limitations call for the U.S. to step in, according to the grant document. The money will support a national HIV response plan that may reduce new infections and care for those already infected. Nearly 2 million Mozambicans have HIV, according to government figures included in the announcement, which also reveals that women are infected at a higher rate (15%) than men (10%). “Key factors driving the epidemic include multiple sexual partners, high levels of mobility and migration, cross-generational sex, transactional sex, low perception of risk, gender inequality and sexual violence, limited condom use, and limited treatment coverage,” it reads.
A whopping $5 million is going to programs that strengthen public health in Nigeria, the U.S. government confirmed this month. The money will fund epidemiological studies and laboratory-based projects and surveillance of “important diseases” in the African nation nearly 6,000 miles across the Atlantic. This includes but is not limited to acute febrile illness, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, zoonotic and vector borne diseases as well as environmental health issues, biosafety and security and other public health threats. “Research projects should outline clear plans to incorporate the results of research activities into operational disease detection, prevention, and response or control programs in Nigeria and ensure the strengthening of local workforce capacity and dissemination of findings across the region, with partners, and globally,” the U.S. grant document says. “Other areas for research include activities to antimicrobial resistance and hospital acquired infections, respiratory infections and influenza, enteric illnesses, and other public health threats.
The Senegal health project will receive $1 million, according to a grant announcement posted this month, for a similar program involving diseases in the African nation. These public health research projects may include but are not limited to activities to address acute febrile illness, antimicrobial resistance and hospital acquired infections, respiratory infections and influenza, enteric illnesses, and other public health threats,” the document reads. As in Nigeria, the U.S.-funded project will also focus on emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, zoonotic and vector borne diseases; environmental health issues effecting infectious diseases (such as water and air); vaccine-preventable diseases; biosafety and security; public health threats of local importance, and implementation research to evaluate the impact of public health programs and interventions and their cost effectiveness. These are just a few of many examples illustrating how government is handing out cash for questionable causes during the so-called shutdown.