5 Myths About Foreign Aid Busted

I want to start by being completely honest; I am a skeptic when it comes to foreign aid. I have been raised to believe that I need to work hard, earn money, and give a portion of my earnings to the poor. But, I have also been raised to believe that it is not the government’s responsibility to spend my money on the behalf of the poor. 

So imagine my struggle when I got a position writing blog posts about the benefits of foreign aid.

At first it was hard for me to get past the mindset that foreign aid was bad, but through my gradual research and conversations I have dispelled many previous misconceptions.

I don’t like to support anything without having the facts, and I hope that you have the same conviction. To make your research on foreign aid easier I have compiled 5 myths that are commonly believed about foreign aid.

I want to start by being completely honest; I am a skeptic when it comes to foreign aid. I have been raised to believe that I need to work hard, earn money, and give a portion of my earnings to the poor. But, I have also been raised to believe that it is not the government’s responsibility to spend my money on the behalf of the poor.

So imagine my struggle when I got a position writing blog posts about the benefits of foreign aid.

At first it was hard for me to get past the mindset that foreign aid was bad, but through my gradual research and conversations I have dispelled many previous misconceptions.

I don’t like to support anything without having the facts, and I hope that you have the same conviction. To make your research on foreign aid easier I have compiled 5 myths that are commonly believed about foreign aid.

5 Myths of Foreign Aid

Myth 1: We spend a lot (25%) of our federal budget on aid

Most Americans grossly over estimate the percent of the federal budget that is spent on aid. It was discovered that Americans believe we spend 25 percent on foreign aid. The amount they believe we should spend is 10 percent.

So, how much do we really spend? Less than 1 percent of the federal budget goes to poverty focused foreign aid.

Myth 2: Americans don’t support foreign aid

Okay, 1 percent of the budget doesn’t seem like that much. But, Americans still don’t believe that we should spend our money on foreign aid. Right?

According to recent polling from the Council on Foreign Relations, American citizens overwhelmingly suppport foreign aid especially when it is poverty focused.  Read more about the polling and results from Stewart Patrick who is a Senior Fellow at CFR and blogs at CNN. 

This distinction of "poverty focused" brings us to the next myth:

Myth 3: Foreign Aid doesn’t actually help

It is true that historically aid hasn't always been used benevolently, or for the purpose of actually helping.  Rather, it was used for influence, military strategy, or other reasons beyond helping those in need.  More and more aid is used for poverty alleviation purposes--hence the name we use to designate this type of aid "Poverty focused develpment aid".  

Here are some quick facts from USAID on the impact of PFDA:

  • 3,000,000 lives are saved each year through USAID immunization programs
  • 5,100,000 with HIV/AIDS received lifesaving antiretroviral treatments
  • 8,800,000 children under the age of 5 have been reached by nutrition programs
  • Almost 100,000 households in 21 countries have gained access to clean water

Each one of these numbers represents a person whose life would be dramtically different if it weren't for interventions paid for by the US government.

Myth 4:  Aid only goes to Government

But, how does it do all that good when it only goes to corrupt governments? It doesn’t. While it is true that money can be squandered by unjust politicians, the problem hasn’t gone unnoticed and places like the Center for Global Development think tank are coming up with ways to monitor and ensure the success of foreign aid.

Also, a significant portion of aid money is actually given as grants to NGO’s.Some of your favorite NGO’s are probably recipients of aid! Christian organizations like World Vision, World Relief, Samaritans Purse, and Convoy of Hope have received significant support to do the amazing work many of us trust enough to personally tithe to!

Myth 5: Aid makes nations dependent

All right, we give aid to countries, but aren’t they now dependent on us? 

While this can be true in some cases where handouts are given with no intention to help build and develop the country receiving the aid. It is not true for all aid. There are many organizations that work to find the root of issues, promote community development, microenterprise, sustainable agriculture, and other areas that will help a community graduate from aid and live independently.

South Korea is a great example of a country that used to receive a significant portion of U.S. foreign aid, but now gives foreign aid to other countries in need.

Rethinking foreign aid

I hope that I was able to answer some of your questions or at least make you think about some alternatives to believing in these myths. However, I know that your questions probably go beyond these five points, so continue your research.

Learn, grow and seek out the truth. Most importantly pray. Pray for guidance from God to lead you to make the most informed decisions and to give you a heart like His for His children around the world.

 

 

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