Information and stories about aid effectiveness and reform

Foreign Aid TransparencyThe success of foreign aid is often shadowed by misconceptions and myths ranging from effectiveness to large overestimates of how much money is spent on aid every year. In an effort to combat some of these myths, foreign aid transparency has become a central issue both globally and domestically. Understanding where funds are being spent is important to donors and citizens as will be explained below. Keep reading for a few facts about foreign aid transparency and where you can find more information on how your nation’s dollars are being used to provide aid to the developing world.

Why Transparency Matters

Transparency includes knowing how much money is spent, where it is spent, who spends it and the overall impact and results. Global foreign aid transparency matters because as nations try to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, this measure will act as the foundation for aid effectiveness and accountability. Aid transparency is important to donor and recipient governments as well as civil society. As citizens who pay taxes, it is reassuring to know exactly where foreign aid funds are being spent and this transparency encourages greater support for foreign aid.

In order to coordinate aid efforts and prevent donors from spending more funds in certain areas and less in others, transparency is key. When donor countries and nonprofits share what they have already spent or are planning to spend, other donors can coordinate their funding off of these numbers and reduce overlap. It is important for donors to research and discuss their funding plans with other nations to achieve greater impact with their limited resources.

Recipients of aid benefit from transparency as well because it is often difficult to know how much aid is given and where it is spent in their own countries. This, in turn, makes it more challenging for governments to decide how much of their own budget to spend on certain problems. Additionally, when aid recipients are not able to show foreign aid money in their budgets or plans for the country, it is much more challenging for citizens and parliaments to hold leaders accountable and corruption can become an issue.

Increasing Accountability with the Aid Transparency Index

One way transparency has improved in recent years is through Publish What You Fund’s Aid Transparency Index. This organization uses research and advocacy to improve transparency mainly through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). The IATI commits donors to publish all foreign aid data under a common standard that can be compared and accessed easily.

The 2018 Aid Transparency Index was recently launched on June 20. It is the only independent measure of aid transparency among major development agencies and governments making it a valuable tool for foreign aid. This year’s index evaluates 45 countries on a scale from very good to very poor transparency.

This organization uses a relatively complex and detailed methodology for monitoring transparency and scoring agencies. For the most recent Index, 35 indicators were selected that drew upon IATI standards and whether they were upheld. These indicators were then weighted and split into five categories. Organization planning and commitments to transparency are 15 percent of the score, finance and budgets are 25 percent, project attributes, development data and performance are equally split into 20 percent of the score as well. The website also includes a comparison chart on how agencies have improved or declined and extensive reports explaining the Index’s findings.

How to Evaluate a Country’s Transparency

The Index is one very detailed way citizens of major donor countries can easily check their country’s score and whether or not their aid agencies are being transparent. One must simply click on the agency they are interested in to view scores in each category, how they have changed in recent years and recommendations for years to come.

Besides the Index, for individuals in the U.S., there are currently two separate dashboards for USAID and the State Department to share where aid dollars are spent. These can be found at ForeingAssistance.gov and Foreign Aid Explorer. This year, the U.S. was included in the “good” category on the Aid Transparency Index meaning there is still room for improvement.

In 2016, Congress passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA) that established requirements for these agencies to publish foreign assistance data. One final provision suggested that USAID and the State Department combine their data into one dashboard by the end of the fiscal year 2018. It is yet to be seen whether this will happen or not but it could be one way of boosting U.S. foreign aid into the very good category for next year’s index.

These are some of the ways that aid transparency has improved in recent years and why it is such a crucial issue for donors, recipients and civil society.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

problems in the world that can be solved

With all the multifaceted problems in the world today, it is difficult to say which are more important than others. However, it is imperative to prioritize certain issues in order to dedicate enough resources to combat the top problems in the world that can be solved.

Top Problems that can be Solved

The Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank that researches the smartest solutions to global issues, organized a panel of five distinguished economists in 2012 to set priorities for fighting the 10 top problems in the world that can be solved:

  1. Armed Conflict
  2. Chronic Disease
  3. Education
  4. Infectious Disease
  5. Population Growth
  6. Biodiversity
  7. Climate Change
  8. Hunger and Malnutrition
  9. Natural Disasters
  10. Water and Sanitation

The panel was asked to describe the best ways to advance global welfare, specifically that of developing countries. The experts then assembled a prioritized list of thirty solutions.

Solutions to the World’s Issues

The number one solution was “bundled interventions to reduce undernutrition in pre-schoolers” and addressed the challenge of hunger and education. Some other proposals high on the list were subsidies for malaria combination treatment and expanding childhood immunization coverage.

The group of experts covered topics besides health, with solutions ranging from investing in early warning systems for natural disasters to increased funding for green energy.

With this list in mind, world leaders at the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Sept. 2015. On Jan. 1, 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the eight Millennium Development Goals of 2015.

The new 17 SDGs were to:

  1. End poverty
  2. End hunger and improve nutrition and sustainable agriculture
  3. Promote well being for all ages
  4. Ensure equitable and quality education
  5. Achieve gender equality
  6. Ensure water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustainable economic growth and productive employment
  9. Build resilient and innovative infrastructure
  10. Reduce inequality
  11. Make settlements safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change
  14. Conserve and sustainably use Earth’s water
  15. Promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and forests, and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful societies, provide access to justice and build effective, accountable institutions
  17. Implement and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

A New Set of Problems

80,000 Hours, an independent nonprofit organization that researches how graduates can make the biggest difference possible with their careers, came up with another list defining problems in the world that can be solved. Drawing from research from groups such as the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and the Copenhagen Consensus Center, 80,000 Hours created a framework to rate global issues.

The organization based its scoring on how solving the problem would reduce the risk of extinction, raise the global economic output, increase the income among the world’s poorest 2 billion people and save years of healthy life. It also used factors like the amount of good done compared to the percent of the problem solved and the number of resources required.

Risks from artificial intelligence topped 80,000 Hours’ list out of 11. Also on the list were biosecurity, developing world health and climate change. Other issues 80,000 Hours has yet to rate include science policy and infrastructure, cheap green energy and promoting human rights. The group indicates that improving health would be more beneficial than topics like empowering the poor and education.

Due to how differently each solution overlaps with others there are various ways to rank a list of top problems in the world that can be solved. Thankfully, experts are doing their best to target issues to focus on and world leaders are taking calculated steps to implement solutions to such issues.

– Connie Loo

Photo: Flickr

cuts to USAIDRecently, the Trump administration, in collaboration with congressional leadership on Capitol Hill, has hammered out a deal to prevent a government shutdown while effectively gutting the State Department and agencies like USAID of their funding. This move not only signals a sidelining of diplomacy but marks one of the biggest budget cuts to USAID and the State Department since the early 1990s.

The effects of the budget cuts to USAID are undoubtedly going to hinder diplomatic agencies in eliminating poverty around the globe and increasing diplomatic relations with the countries that depend on us the most. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the State Department’s main tool for dispensing aid to foreign countries and strengthening diplomatic relations.

USAID currently operates in roughly 100 countries, fighting the spread of poverty and disease while working to improve economic conditions worldwide. The proposed budget cuts to USAID weigh in at approximately $9 billion, a staggering defeat to those working toward the end of poverty worldwide.

The President’s proposed budget cuts to USAID amount to nearly one-third of its total budget, in what seems to be a strategic move away from diplomacy and toward military strengthening. Regardless of the President’s agenda, this move away from soft power and diplomacy has been condemned by many members of the military.

A total of 151 retired senior military commanders, including former chiefs of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command, have warned that a reduction of this magnitude could have detrimental effects around the globe. As threats to the United States’ national security continue to grow, it is a risk to decrease diplomatic ties at such a pivotal moment.

Many civilians and government employees agree with the opinions of their military leaders. Former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios said, when facing the 1999 budget cuts to foreign aid, that it is likely budget cuts could have detrimental effects toward the technical expertise of USAID and could mark the beginning of a disaster in the long-term.

As well as the statement above, Natsios describes budget cuts toward foreign aid and agencies such as USAID as an “evisceration of the most important tool of American influence in the developing world.” Other staffers from USAID warn of the spread of disease in the United States rising as foreign aid spending is cut. Outbreaks such as the Ebola outbreak may become much larger and harder to contain with a lack of funding to agencies such as USAID. These concerns are still relevant and even more serious today.

Agencies such as USAID are pivotal in diplomatic relations and national security. By providing funds, resources, goods and trade to other countries, the U.S. invests in itself as well as others. By providing healthcare to those in need, USAID prevents the spread of communicable diseases, prevents premature death and builds a market for low-cost medical technologies.

By providing food and farming technologies, the U.S. prevents world hunger and promotes market trading of produce and other consumable goods. By providing foreign aid, the country also helps form more efficiently-run governments and promotes democracy wherever possible. All of these efforts also prevent bigger catastrophes around the globe, such as mass migrations, food shortages and natural disasters.

At the end of March, Congress approved an omnibus appropriations bill for FY18 that will keep the government open through September 30, 2018. When it comes to funding for development and diplomacy, the omnibus overwhelmingly rejects the deep and disproportionate cuts proposed by the Administration in FY18 – highlighting the strong bipartisan support in Congress for these critical programs. Still, there is more work to be done to protect funding for the foreign aid budget in FY19 and beyond. 

 

Email Congress in Support of the International Affairs Budget

– Dalton Westfall

Photo: Flickr

In a recent internal memo titled “America First Foreign Assistance Policy,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley outlines possible aid cuts to nations that vote against U.S. initiatives within the U.N. It is suggested that foreign assistance programs should be partially contingent upon voting with the U.S. at the U.N. The memo comes in the wake of the United States’ motion to move its embassy to Jerusalem, a move that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Although the motion passed, it was also met with widespread condemnation; 128 countries in total condemned the move. In response, the United States threatened to cut foreign aid programs. Commenting on the vote at a recent AIPAC conference, Haley stated, “We’re not forgetting that vote. As I said at the time: On that vote, we were taking names.”

As of today, only Palestine has received cuts in foreign aid assistance. This is largely due to the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to enter into peace negotiations with Israel. In the view of the Palestinian government, the United States has lost its position as the neutral-party at the negotiating table.

A major element of Haley’s “America First Foreign Assistance Policy” is the direct link between foreign assistance programs and American security interests. For example, Iraq and Egypt remain exempt from cuts in foreign aid even though both countries have voted against the United States in the past on multiple resolutions. It is argued that continued aid to Iraq and Egypt is vital in protecting U.S. security interests in the Middle East.

Countries not exempted from cuts who offer the U.S. little economic or security benefit could see major shifts in aid assistance. Specifically, American foreign assistance programs in Ghana, Vietnam and Zimbabwe are under fire. $4.9 million to aid in Ghana’s construction of schools, Vietnam’s $6.6 million climate change program and a $3.1 million job training initiative in Zimbabwe are highlighted in the document. Currently, aid programs for roughly 40 countries who have voted against the U.S. in the past are under review.

In addition to the details of the “America First Foreign Assistance Policy” document, the State Department has put more than $100 million on hold in funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Another $100 million requested by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration has also been denied. It is unclear as to why the funds have been denied or when they may be approved.

With the recent release of U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s proposal for major changes to American foreign assistance programs, there is much concern for countries that receive U.S. aid, most notably for nations viewed as nonessential to U.S. economic and security interests. Furthermore, countries that lack a track record of voting with the U.S. on U.N. resolutions could face serious cuts.

It is unknown whether these policy changes will be formally adopted in Washington, D.C. The proposed changes have seen much backlash from both the Department of Defense and intelligence community. Ultimately, the American mission to eradicate international poverty and obtain global security is at risk.

– Colby McCoy

Photo: Flickr

Proposed Budgets for Global Health and Foreign AidAfter months of threatening to make serious cuts in the proposed budgets for global health and foreign aid, the Trump administration and Congress signed a budget deal on March 21, 2018 indicating increases to nearly all government-allocated scientific research agencies, many of which contribute to global health research. For instance, the National Institues of Health received a $3 billion increase in federal budget allocations, a reversal of the 22 percent reduction in the budget proposed by the White House earlier this year.

These developments fall in line with press releases published on the White House website. The White House explains that the Trump administration champions the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which helps to prevent the spread of diseases through increases in disease prevention provisions in countries prone to an outbreak.

President Trump himself has expressed that “the world cannot have prosperity unless it is healthy”. His administration’s reports detail the GHSA and clearly show the impact that this specific global health advancement has had on outbreaks of dengue fever in Burkina Faso, as well as the Marburg virus in Uganda.

This viewpoint on global health security and the recently approved 2018 budget contrast with the Trump administration’s 2019 proposed budgets for global health and foreign aid. The 2019 budget proposes 30 percent cuts to the Senate Foreign Affairs Budget as well as the Department of Health and Human Services.

While the recently approved 2018 budget increased the funding to agencies vital to public health, it is still important to understand the impact these proposed budgets for global health and foreign aid could have on agencies internally. Budget cuts to United States government institutions materialize in a slowdown of impactful research and operations that occur within the agency. Decreases in budgets inevitably reduce the number of grants that are approved and also limit the number of researchers institutions are allowed to hire.

The less money an agency receives, the fewer projects it is able to complete. As of right now, the deepest cut in the proposed budget for global health and foreign aid are to the State Department, with a primary focus on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Cuts to USAID will reduce the number of programs and limit the amount of personnel and projects carrying out USAID work.

As of right now, USAID is in a hiring freeze and only seeking out critical personal on an as-needed basis through specialized waivers. Despite this challenge, current USAID administrator Mark Green claims that the tightening of the USAID budget causes the agency to operate as efficiently as possible. Green explained that even with budget restrictions, he is working with the president to show how development is a necessary soft approach to national security and global health.

While some global health programs are proposed to receive equal or additional funding through presidential and Congressional support of the CDC’s GHSA program, USAID looks to remain under tight restrictions. Overall, advocates of global health and USAID will continue to emphasize the institution’s importance to foreign policy, but it is ultimately up to President Trump and Congress to approve the organization’s desired funding.

– Daniel Levy

Photo: Flickr

poverty in Africa
From U.S. leaders speaking about African countries that do not exist, to people thinking Africa is a single country, misconceptions about the continent and its circumstances are far too common and dangerous to people in need. This past year illustrated this point clearly: most in the public eye do not know what is actually going on there, and when they do, they fail to describe it correctly.

But as the financial conditions in Africa change, so should the concepts and terms used to describe it. Clearing this air is fundamental for the comprehension and, possibly, alleviation of poverty in Africa.

There is no single story, country, color or solution to poverty in Africa.

Africa is not homogeneous; this misconception largely comes from gross oversimplifications by colonists or other invaders (past and present). The inability to accurately describe the large region’s complexities coupled with a historic, persistent desire to control the various narratives there is where wrongful assumptions are made. Thinking it is one country inhabited by people who all look the same or that all African populations are the descendants of slaves is extremely problematic when it comes to helping those in need.

The Sahara Desert makes up a third of the continent, but its exotic wildlife and rare tribes have become more of an icon for the entire landmass’s culture than the other 66 percent of the actual continent. The same can be said of Africa’s immense rainforest, which covers even less of the continent.

The islands on the coast vary by the hundreds: Comoros and Réunion in the east, Ascension and St. Helena south of those, Cape Verde in the southwest and the Canary Islands in the northwest, to name a few. All of these are domains of Africa and their economic diversity goes unrecognized in relation to the continent’s popularized image.

Each country faces different problems brought on by varying systemic, societal and historical issues. Assuming there is a single plan that can “fix” all of Africa is not just naive but severely condescending.

Africa is not poor, just severely exploited (still).

Seychelles, an African archipelago of 115 islands that boasts only 1 percent unemployment, was ranked as the richest nation in Africa last year. A growing population of wealthy people are living and moving to places like Mauritius, an island just east of Madagascar. Africa’s islands are home to many of the world’s wealthiest people, not just Africa’s. On the mainland, South Africa, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Egypt are among the richest countries on the continent.

Some of the poverty in Africa is not by accident, but by design. An estimated $203 billion leaves the continent each year and around $41 billion was made off of sub-Saharan Africa alone last year. The sheer inequality is startling because the amount loaned to African countries ($162 billion) is less than the amount leaving, but nothing is being repaid.

According to a recent report, some of it is attributed to “trade misinvoicing”, where African nations receive an influx of foreign aid but subsequently lose three times that amount from “multinational companies deliberately misreporting the value of their imports or exports to reduce tax.” This means that many resource-rich African countries receiving aid are being manipulated by corporations, disenfranchising populations for denationalized profits.

This continues a history of economic exploitation that African countries have endured for centuries.

Not all tribes in Africa are poor. Or small. Or even “tribes”.

The common conception of African tribes is of black and brown people living in straw huts, hunting for food and thriving off the land. Even though Africa is home to around 3,000 tribes, many encompass populations of countries by the millions and do not live like that at all.

In Nigeria, 20 to 35 percent (approximately 45 million people) of the population identifies with the Yoruba tribe; many have white-collar jobs and live in a city. Many other tribes such as the Pedi, Igbo, Suri, Fulani and especially the Zulu, have become prominent in both size and wealth too, living in cities as taxpaying, working citizens. This raises the question: what is a tribe?

This notable misconception concerns the terminology itself. The term “tribe” insinuates a community of indigenous people, which they are, but it also comes with more negative connotations than the term “ethnic group” which, by definition, is what such populations can also be called. The name “language groups” applies even more because many speakers of various “tribal” languages are only that, speakers of a language, not “members” of a “tribe”.

For example, while it is common to speak about the displacement of various ethnic groups, the displacement of tribes in Africa is lesser known or communicated internationally. The term “ethnic group” tends to conjure empathy, while “tribe” tends to establish a sense of otherness. The ethnic diversity of such a well-populated continent needs a strikingly more complex lexicon to even begin to accurately depict populations that are far from the definition of “tribes”.

Breaking down such misconceptions helps diversify aid by simply being more culturally sensitive and aware. Addressing ineffective communication about poverty in Africa starts with using more accurate and inclusive language. Using precise vocabulary to paint a clear, distinct picture of the complex problems is how more successful solutions are established.

– Toni Paz

Photo: Flickr

BUILD Act Introduced to House Committee on Foreign AffairsOn February 27, Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL) led a bipartisan effort that brought H.R. 5105, otherwise known as the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Modernizing U.S. Foreign Aid

The goal of this bill is to make foreign aid programs more efficient through consolidation. The BUILD Act specifically targets development finance programs, or foreign aid programs that assist other countries financially. The bill will consolidate all these foreign aid programs into one corporation that will be called the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC).

“By streamlining our current system, we will not only spark economic growth in developing countries; we will improve America’s global competitiveness,” Rep. Yoho said in a press release.

Economic Assistance

These development finance programs are a vital part of foreign aid, because they help to make a country economically stronger. Once a country’s economy is healthy, the country will no longer depend upon the U.S. for foreign aid.

The text of the BUILD Act states that the goal of the IDFC will be to primarily assist countries with low and lower-middle income level economies, as outlined by the World Bank, as opposed to providing assistance to upper-middle income economy countries.

Furthermore, the bill states that the IDFC will work primarily with the private sector in order to boost the economy of the country in need. The private sector is the part of the economy that is not controlled directly by the government, or in other words, the part of the economy that is managed by the citizens.

The IDFC will work to encourage the use of a country’s private capital to facilitate sustainable economic growth and promote poverty reduction. To achieve this goal, assistance will be provided to individuals and collectives that are part of the private sector, so that they can avoid market gaps and inefficiencies.

In addition, the IDFC will not just provide financial assistance to developing countries; it will also ensure that the civic institutions in these countries are fortified and that there is a healthy level of competition in the economy. The IDFC will also foster public transparency.

Long-Term Goals of the BUILD Act

The consolidation of the various development finance programs into one corporation will help the U.S. to more efficiently achieve its foreign aid goals.

The ultimate goal of the BUILD Act is for developing countries to eventually graduate from their need for assistance. The act will help to achieve this by making it easier for U.S. foreign aid to bolster the economies of developing countries so that over time they will depend less on traditional forms of foreign assistance.

“Taking countries from aid to trade is the end goal. We want to help countries become robust trading partners with the United States,” Congressman Yoho said in the press release.

The BUILD Act will benefit not only developing countries in need of assistance, but will also have positive effects for the U.S. in terms of business and national security.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Flickr

Chinese foreign aid boosts African developmentIn 15 years, China has built invested over $350 billion in Africa. Chinese foreign aid boosts African development and covers 140 African countries and territories.

China has been engaging with African countries since 1955, with the Bandung Conference. From the first efforts in Egypt to the TAZARA Railway, the most remarkable project China has in Africa, Chinese foreign aid boosts African development mainly in infrastructure, education, agriculture and energy generation.

Energy Generation

China spent $134.1 billion on energy generation and supply from 2000 to 2014. In August 2017, China-Africa Renewable Energy Cooperation and Innovation Alliance and Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to consolidate a cooperative relationship. This project includes building micro-grids for which Chinese providers and core renewable energy manufacturers will provide technological and financial support. This project shows prominent progress in renewable energy.

In addition, China has been increasingly engaging in the wind and solar PV industries under South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers’ Procurement Program, which focuses more on Chinese investors and companies’ investments, technology supply and manufacturing. Renewable energy generation is a win-win strategy, protecting the global environment and building the China-Africa connection.

Agriculture

Until 2014, China spent $10 billion on agriculture, forestry and fishing projects. In 2015, Chinese President Jinping Xi announced a $60 billion funding for 10 comprehensive plans to strengthen China-African cooperation. China-Africa agricultural industrial chains are one of the top priorities in these plans.

Additionally, China has been introducing agricultural technology and new breeds into Africa and has been sending agricultural experts to train African farmers. From 2000 to 2013, Chinese foreign aid to Africa in the agricultural sector has grown from $25 million to $325 million. The remarkable growth has brought African citizens an alternative way to improve their lives.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure investment has dominated Chinese foreign aid to Africa for more than a decade. The most significant project is the TAZARA railway in East Africa. The TAZARA railway was designed and built from 1968 to 1976. This 1,860 km railway stretches from Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, to New Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia, which eliminates Zambia’s economic dependence on Rhodesia and South Africa.

This railway benefits the many rural regions along the route. There are thriving marketplaces at every train platform, providing a valuable method for rural residents and farmers to trade daily necessities. China invested more than $400 million in this project, along with technical assistance.

TAZARA railway is only one example of the many infrastructure projects China has worked on in Africa. From 2000 to 2014, China invested $88.8 million in transport and storage. The infrastructure aid has helped to stabilize African economic development.

Overall, Chinese foreign aid boosts African development mainly in infrastructure, agriculture and energy generation. Even though Chinese foreign aid to Africa is controversial, its investment has motivated African development on a large scale.

– Judy Lu

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Medical humanitarian aidAccording to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an epidemic is a significant and sudden increase in the number of cases of a particular disease in a specific area or within a certain population. Epidemics can present themselves all over the world. However, epidemics are most common in impoverished, war-torn and developing countries.

Medical humanitarian aid can help end epidemics in many impoverished countries. Most countries that receive foreign humanitarian aid are not properly equipped to deal with disease outbreaks, nor do they have the trained medical professionals needed. This is how a disease outbreak quickly turns into an epidemic.

Many international medical relief groups focus their efforts on controlling epidemics by providing adequate medical training, professionals and equipment. Listed below are some of the international medical relief groups that are working toward ending epidemics.

Medical Teams International

Medical Teams International is a Christian-based international relief group that has been using medical humanitarian aid to help end epidemics. The group works by delivering medical supplies and trained volunteers to areas in need. The mission of the group is to provide medical, dental, humanitarian and holistic relief to diverse areas without discrimination.

For over 25 years, Medical Teams International has been providing relief for refugees in impoverished and war-torn countries. For example, in 2017 the United Nations declared a famine in South Sudan as a result of the civil war that has been ongoing since 2013. Shortly after the declaration, Medical Teams International dispatched massive relief efforts to combat the Cholera and Malaria epidemics.

Currently, Medical Teams International has provided medical humanitarian aid to over 520 thousand Sudanese refugees, severely curving the disease epidemics in that area.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, is one of the most well known international medical-based relief groups in the world. For over 45 years, the group has dispersed trained medical professionals and medical humanitarian aid across the globe. Medecins Sans Frontieres is also on the cusp of many medical initiatives in impoverished countries.

Medecins Sans Frontieres is known for tackling large disease outbreaks and epidemics in poor and dangerous areas. In 2017, Medecins Sans Frontieres dispatched relief efforts to Uganda after the country was declared in a state of humanitarian emergency. The group focused its efforts on the recent Cholera outbreak spreading through Uganda, setting up multiple Cholera clinics to help treat and prevent the spread of Cholera to other refugees in Uganda.

Direct Relief

Direct Relief is another nonprofit humanitarian aid organization that primarily focuses on medical relief to devastated areas. The goal of the organization is to provide proper and comprehensive medical aid for impoverished areas and emergencies. In 2017, Forbes ranked Direct Relief among the top United States charities.

Over the past five years, Direct Relief has provided medical humanitarian aid to over 80 countries, many in Africa and South Asia. They have supplied over two thousand healthcare facilities and have sent billions of U.S. dollars worth of medical equipment and supplies.

These international organizations and many more have worked hard to make medical humanitarian aid more accessible to impoverished countries. Many epidemics that have started due to unsafe food, unsafe water and a generally poor environment have been contained and even eliminated by medical humanitarian aid. These organizations believe that with the right aid and volunteers, diseases around the world can be eradicated.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid Is Getting BetterGovernment-funded aid and development programs do not benefit from the free market pressures generating growth and improved efficiency in the private sector. However, since the emergence of the international aid system following World War II, many countries’ philanthropic expenditures have become more transparent, sustainable and effective. This upward trend continues to this day; foreign aid is getting better, thanks to several improvements in their methods and philosophies.

Data Science

The first step in solving a problem is identifying it. This cliche is rarely more relevant than in the world of foreign aid, where economists and data scientists have spent years trying to measure, model and tailor solutions to the world’s most intractable problems. Good data are essential for development initiatives to establish baselines, set goals and targets, track progress and evaluate results.

Since the Marrakech Action Plan for Statistics was agreed to in 2004, more than 86 percent of International Development Association countries have completed or begun developing national strategies for gathering statistics. To carry this progress forward, organizations like the World Bank and the Committee on Data of the International Council for Science offer training on data practices to members of developing countries.

The science continues to improve. In 2014, Jesse Berns, a veteran of war and disaster zones, developed the Dharma Platform, an innovative new software designed for the rapid collection, sharing, and analysis of data in chaotic situations. Already adopted by Doctors Without Borders in 22 countries, Dharma is one example of how foreign aid is getting better.

Technology

The Dharma platform, made possible by the ubiquity of mobile phones, dovetails with another accelerator of foreign aid efficacy, technology. Recognizing the need to harness new technologies in order to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, in 2014, USAID established the U.S. Global Development Lab (USGDL) “to produce breakthrough development innovations by sourcing, testing and scaling proven solutions to reach hundreds of millions of people.” USGDL is comprised of scientists and experts from a range of private-sector partners and works with labs in universities across the country. Leadership has set ambitious goals, hoping to provide digitized agricultural data by mobile phone to 42 million small farmers in Africa within five years and standalone energy solutions to 40 million people.

While most of the impact of technological innovation occurs outside of the context of development assistance, the USGDL illustrates an essential way that foreign aid is getting better, by harnessing technology as an indispensable development tool. Since 2012, the program has expanded internet access to approximately 20 million new mobile and internet users around the globe, and directly supported USAID health and education programs by connecting 56 schools and 39 hospitals to the web.

Foreign Aid Is Getting Better by Shifting Its Approach

While improving the material lives of recipients is an essential goal of foreign aid, material donations have a limited to negative impact when they are misaligned with a country’s development needs. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development‘s Working Party on Aid Effectiveness recognized at the beginning of the 21st century that “promoting widespread and sustainable development was not only about amounts of aid given, but also about how aid was given.” Learning from the lessons of decades of misalignment and waste, foreign aid organizations are shifting away from dollars-and-cents inputs to an emphasis on self-sufficiency and building donor-recipient coordination.

Foreign aid is a young enterprise. Most of the organizations that come to mind with respect to foreign aid did not exist until the second half of the 20th century. While much progress has been made in improving foreign aid initiatives, from improving accountability to investing in sustainable, bottom-up solutions, foreign aid is getting better. Providing effective assistance to those in need is undeniably difficult, but it is getting easier. 

– Whiting Tennis

Photo: Flickr