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Samantha Power will be sworn in as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development on Monday, after the U.S. Senate voted 68 to 26 in favor of her confirmation.

Today’s event: Join my colleague Raquel Alcega at 9 a.m. ET today for a Devex Pro Live discussion with Magnus Lindelow from the World Bank about the bank’s successes and challenges in funding and procurement during an unprecedented year. Register here.

MEET THE NEW BOSS

On the 99th day of U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, Samantha Power, his pick to lead America’s bilateral aid agency, won the approval of a majority of U.S. senators. Power’s confirmation vote took place with limited discussion or debate. Only one lawmaker, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, spoke out against her appointment.

• Power will become the 19th USAID administrator and the third woman to hold that job since the agency was created in 1961. She will also have a permanent seat on the National Security Council’s Principals Committee.

• She will assume leadership of USAID at a moment when the U.S. government’s assistance to low- and middle-income countries is under heightened scrutiny, due in large part to the devastating spike in COVID-19 cases in India.

• During Power’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, she outlined her four biggest priorities for USAID: the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, conflict and state collapse, and democratic backsliding.

While lawmakers cast their votes for or against Power on Wednesday, Rep. Joaquin Castro, who chairs a new House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, shared his perspective on Congress’ global development priorities. Adva Saldinger has the story.

Devex Pro: Innovation should ‘permeate’ how U.S. does development, says Rep. Castro

‘ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATING’

The U.K. government is cutting its funding to the United Nations Population Fund’s supplies program by 85%. A source at the U.N. told Will Worley the move is “absolutely devastating.” Simon Cooke, CEO at MSI Reproductive Choices, said it “would probably do more damage to our service provision than the ‘global gag rule’ did.”

• The supplies program distributes contraceptives and medicines to health ministries and NGOs in lower-income countries to use in sexual and reproductive health programs. The U.K. plans to slash funding from roughly $215 million to $32 million.

• The missing $183 million  would have helped UNFPA prevent around 250,000 maternal and child deaths, 14.6 million unintended pregnancies, and 4.3 million unsafe abortions, according to the agency.

• Former FCDO minister Liz Sugg called the decision, “a breach of a signed agreement that the U.K. made with multiple international partners, putting into question our reputation as a trusted ally in the future.”

Read: UK cuts family planning funding to UNFPA by 85%

MARK MY WORDS

“I want all the thieves hiding in the civil service to mark my words: If the finger of evidence points to you as one of the thieves who stole COVID money for saving lives while hundreds of our people were dying of COVID, you are going to prison.”

— Lazarus Chakwera, president, Malawi

Last week, Chakwera surprised the nation by firing Minister of Labour Ken Kandodo after an audit found that he used roughly $780 in COVID-19 funding as an allowance for a foreign trip. Madalitso Wills Kateta reports for Devex on Malawi’s crackdown on COVID corruption.

Read: Malawi audit confirms extensive mismanagement of COVID-19 funds

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STRUGGLING TO BREATHE

Interactive by: PATH 

As of Wednesday, low- and middle-income countries need an estimated 27.1 million cubic meters of medical oxygen per day, according to the COVID-19 Oxygen Needs Tracker, produced by PATH. Nearly half of that demand is currently in India.

IN OTHER NEWS

In his first speech to Congress as president, Joe Biden addressed criticism of vaccine hoarding by promising that the U.S. will “become an arsenal of vaccines for other countries.” [White House]

Go Give One, a new campaign officially launched Wednesday, wants to mobilize some 50 million people to donate around $10 each to fund the COVAX Facility. [Washington Post]

The number of children displaced by the conflict in the Central African Republic has reached its highest since 2014 at 370,000, according to UNICEF. [UN News]

Canada could miss its ambitious refugee resettlement target of 36,000 for 2021, with only 1,000 refugees resettled since the start of the year through early March. [Reuters]

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.