"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Monday, May 25, 2009

U.S. Foreign Aid Needs a Heart


Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a federal holiday commemorating U.S. men and women who died while in military service. There is no holiday commemorating the countless others, particularly children, who die every year worldwide. Here are just a couple of statistics:

  • 1.4 million children who die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation
  • 2.2 million children who die each year because they are not immunized

The world is so infatuated with war that it is unwilling to change its priorities to care for all its people, and if the care the nations provide for the world's children is an indicator of our moral standing, we are approaching bankruptcy. Less than one per cent of what the world spends every year on weapons would put every child (worldwide) into school. Less than one percent!!! Not much more could guarantee health care and adequate sanitation for all.

The United States gives out a considerable amount of money in foreign aid, but it is minuscule in relation to its military budget. And a fair percentage of what the U.S. calls foreign aid should be renamed foreign military assistance. Israel, Egypt and Pakistan all receive "foreign aid" money, much of which goes directly to their militaries. One report stated that, "Of the nearly three billion dollars earmarked for Israel, most is for military credits" (so they can buy U.S. military hardware). The same report warned that since the beginning of the war on terrorism, U.S. aid has taken on "militaristic angles" and this aid will come “largely at the expense of humanitarian and development assistance.”

Whether or not U.S. foreign aid will be overhauled under the Obama administration remains to be seen. If military spending and the continuation of the Global War on Terror are indicators, things aren't looking too good. It will require not only shifting financial resources and reforming the government's foreign assistance policies and programs, but also a fundamental shift in national security policy; it wouldn't be a bad idea to ditch the counterproductive War on Terror.

A bipartisan bill, H.R. 2139, Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009, would require the Obama administration to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy for global development and includes other initial reforms to make U.S. foreign assistance more accountable. It's a starting point. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider H.R. 2139 after the Memorial Day recess.

You can send a letter asking your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 2139 by clicking here.

Click here to read an article by David Beckman (Bread for the World) titled, "Debunking Myths About Foreign Aid." Bread for the World supports H.R. 2139.

Peace through Compassion,


Global Issues, Poverty Facts and Stats
Global Issues, U.S. and Foreign Aid Assistance

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