NAIROBI — The U.S. Embassy in Uganda has refuted claims that changes to the way the U.S. doles out funding in response to the country's new Anti-Homosexuality Act have negatively affected health care and other services, in a statement issued Friday.
"We note the frequent statements from political and other leaders that the U.S. is cutting assistance to Ugandans in urgent need of health services," said the statement. "This is patently false."
The statement, entitled "No changes to U.S. assistance to Uganda," follows news last weekend of the first concrete changes to U.S. funding in response to the law, which imposes up to a lifetime sentence for homosexuality and criminalizes LGBT rights advocacy. They included the diversion of $6.4 million from the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, a coalition of denominations that deliver HIV services but were vocal supporters of the law, and the redirection of $3 million to promote "tourism and biodiversity" from the Ugandan government to NGOs.
"Speaking for the United States, let us be clear; none of the announced changes in U.S. assistance affects essential care and treatment in our health services, our extensive agriculture programming, or our initiatives in democracy and governance," reads the embassy statement. "The American people continue to provide over $700 million in assistance to the people of Uganda annually — more than any other donor.... Our commitment to support the needs of the Ugandan people remains strong, just as it has for the last fifty years."
The statement came one day after a meeting of Uganda's Joint Parliamentary Committee of Health, during which lawmakers reportedly discussed creating a fund as a backup to pay for anti-retroviral treatment in case donors withdraw funds for HIV programs over the new law.
Also Friday, European Union officials met with government officials in Uganda to discuss the Anti-Homosexuality Act, possibly including changes to aid. Denmark and the Netherlands have already suspended bilateral aid in response to the law.
Here's the U.S. Embassy statement:
March 28, 2014
STATEMENT BY U.S. MISSION UGANDA – No changes in U.S. Assistance to Uganda
We have seen several reports alleging that recent decisions by donors have directly affected services in health, agriculture, and election funding. Speaking for the United States, let us be clear; none of the announced changes in U.S. assistance affects essential care and treatment in our health services, our extensive agriculture programming, or our initiatives in democracy and governance. Nor do they hinder any other program central to our shared vision of a peaceful, prosperous, healthy, and democratic Uganda.
The American people continue to provide over $700 million in assistance to the people of Uganda annually - more than any other donor. Virtually none of this money goes to the government. It goes to our implementing partners who use it to provide direct services to the people most in need. Our commitment to support the needs of the Ugandan people remains strong, just as it has for the last fifty years.
We note the frequent statements from political and other leaders that the U.S. is cutting assistance to Ugandans in urgent need of health services. This is patently false. On behalf of the American people, we provide nearly eighty percent of the national HIV response in Uganda. We support the life-saving, anti-retroviral therapy (ART) of over half-a million Ugandans – over eighty percent of all citizens on ART in Uganda. There has been no other realistic source of funds for this treatment, and without it, people will die.
We believe deeply that Uganda's economic future must be strongly rooted in its tremendous agricultural potential. That is why President Obama's Feed the Future program - which remains fully funded - is the single-largest donor-funded agriculture program in Uganda. Over one-quarter of a million members of 5,600 farmer and producer organizations are benefitting right now from the training and improved technology Feed the Future provides.
Our democracy and governance programs are central to our work around the world, and Uganda is no different. As we have for years, we continue to work with actors across the Ugandan political spectrum in non-partisan ways to promote democratic principles and to help ensure free, fair and credible elections and that all Ugandans can enjoy the basic freedoms and universal rights that come with being a member of the international community. And, as long as we have a viable partnership, we intend to provide further assistance to help ensure that future elections are also free, fair, and credible.