U.S. Foreign Aid During COVID-19The year 2020’s sudden outbreak of COVID-19 caught many countries off guard. The U.S. is demonstrating its status as a global superpower by releasing economic, medical and other foreign aid during COVID-19.

5 Facts About US Foreign Aid During COVID-19

  1. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has given more than $1.5 billion to different governments and organizations during the pandemic. The government split the money among various humanitarian, developmental and economic programs and organizations. The aid aims to help sustain governments at risk during the pandemic. It also intends to make the public more aware of COVID-19 and how to combat it. Additionally, the aid from the U.S. will go toward improving health education and hospitals, funding quick response teams capable of inhibiting COVID-19’s spread. The U.S. Government has also planned a $4 billion relief fund to aid high-risk countries through COVAX, a program that provides vaccines to low-income countries.
  2. The U.S. State Department works alongside other organizations. USAID and the CDC help the U.S. Government provide the necessary aid to countries at high risk. Congress created an emergency fund of $2.4 billion with the purpose of supporting both humanitarian programs and security and stabilization programs for countries in need. For example, foreign aid helps countries create safe and secure ways for citizens to receive necessary medical care during the pandemic.
  3. The U.S. gave the most foreign aid in 2020. In 2020, the U.S. gave around $35 billion in aid, with Germany close behind at just shy of $30 billion. The global amount of money that has gone toward COVID-19 relief measures is equal to about $16 trillion. U.S. foreign aid during COVID-19 is only around 1% of that. The majority of foreign aid during COVID-19 went toward short-term solutions, such as the aforementioned public health education programs and hospital care programs.
  4. U.S. foreign aid programs help combat more than just COVID-19. Recently, the House of Representatives passed an $11 billion bill to support countries in need, including through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  5. The U.S. has approved $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 aid. Of that $1.9 trillion, the U.S. has dedicated $11 billion to fight the global pandemic. That $11 billion includes $800 million for aid programs from the U.S. Agency for International Development as well as the CDC Global Fund. The remaining $10 billion will support global health, humanitarian aid and economic aid.

To conclude, the U.S. has provided more aid than any other nation to help countries combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This has allowed many at-risk countries to minimize or at least lessen the impact of the disease.

Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

U.S. foreign AidThe percentage of GDP toward U.S. foreign aid is lower than most people expect, not even making it among the top 20 when compared to similar OECD nations. However, the U.S. does rank first in the amount of aid given, with over $34 billion going to foreign aid. The second-highest-ranking country is Germany, which gave about $24 billion to foreign aid. Many Americans may wonder where does this $34 billion go to and how is it used?

Top 5 Recipients of U.S. Foreign Aid in 2019

Iraq ($960 million)

The U.S. government’s role in war-torn Iraq shaped the way the U.S. allocates foreign aid in the country. Post-Iraq invasion saw mostly aid in the form of investments into essential services. ISIS and the areas it controlled and used to fund itself damaged the country. So, the plans following 2010 for U.S. foreign aid revolved mostly around reconstruction and infrastructure investments. Today, humanitarian aid mainly addresses those displaced by violence, especially those in former ISIS-occupied areas and those recovering from economic collapse.

Egypt ($1.46 billion)

Since 1978, Egypt received more than $50 billion in U.S. military aid and $30 billion in economic assistance. According to the Center for Global Development, military aid remains steady as of recent. However, humanitarian assistance is slowly declining since the 1990s. Although military aid makes up a majority of Egypt’s aid, issues relating to health, such as infant and maternal mortality rates, are improving. In addition, USAID made significant investments in Egyptian education. The aid currently works to foster economic development in the public and private sectors.

Jordan ($1.72 billion)

According to U.S. News and World Report, most of Jordan’s aid in 2019 is economic unlike the two countries above. The latest numbers for the year 2020 show significant investments from the U.S. to Jordan. U.S. assistance for Jordan’s COVID-19 response adds up to about $35.4 million. This includes almost $20.8 million in humanitarian support to assist refugees in Jordan. Throughout the years, Syrian refugees in Jordan received $1.7 billion in humanitarian U.S. aid since the start of the Syria crisis.

Israel (3.3 billion)

New statistics in 2020 indicate the U.S. granted Israel an additional $500 million to the Israeli state. The aid falls under the long-term agreement signed by the Obama administration. U.S. Foreign aid to Israel is almost all military aid. Since 2000, 70% of foreign aid assistance is military aid and in 2019, military aid made up a record high of 99.7% of Israeli aid. In total, Israel received the most U.S. foreign aid of any country since World War II.

Afghanistan ($4.89 billion)

As in Israel and Egypt, a large amount of U.S. foreign aid to Afghanistan is military support rather than humanitarian organization assistance. As for other forms of aid, the U.S. government recently announced a $266 million humanitarian aid package for the Afghan people. It will support people in the midst of conflict and facing severe food insecurity. Since 2020, USAID to Afghanistan amounted to $543 million. Essential products, food and direct cash will benefit more than 2.3 million people. This includes the most vulnerable and damaged families and households, many of whom have fled their homes. People flee due to the violence in the region or an inability to pay for necessities due to COVID-19’s economic effects on the prices of goods.

– Gene Kang
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Demining in ColombiaThe Colombian people and economy have suffered greatly from landmines placed around the nation in the 1990s by guerrillas, paramilitary organizations and drug traffickers. One estimate finds that mines are responsible for “12,000 injuries and deaths” since 1990. Their looming presence continues to hinder access to education, healthcare facilities and essential services. Governments and NGOs are having a difficult time with demining in Colombia due to the irregular and unpredictable placement of the mines. This complication makes funding for demining in the 63% of Colombian municipalities currently plagued by mines an international priority.

How Landmines Impact Civilians

Armed groups have targeted largely rural areas in mine placement. While mines were intended to harm military personnel, civilians in the rural communities have predominantly faced the tragic consequences. The lingering threat of hidden mines hinders daily life and safety in many municipalities. Due to landmines, communities suffer sudden deaths and mutilations even as Colombia progresses to a time of peace.

The percentage of civilian landmine victims went up from 45% in 2019 to almost 70% in 2020 despite widespread extraction efforts. It is also important to note that civilian deaths and mutilations disproportionately affect indigenous populations of the rural areas.

Global Demining Efforts

The United States is currently responsible for most of the funding for global humanitarian demining. Since 1993, the U.S. has allotted $4 billion to “conventional weapons destruction efforts” internationally. In 2020, the United States set aside $228.5 million for humanitarian demining efforts across 40 nations, including Colombia. Similar funding has successfully removed 1.4 million landmines across 376 square miles of land since 2016.

The funding from the U.S. is essential for the success of demining efforts in Colombia and the U.S. plays an important part in rallying other nations to contribute. As of May 2021, Colombia is the second-most densely landmine-filled nation after war-torn Afghanistan. Given the dire need for extracting landmines in Colombia, the funding provided by the U.S. is necessary to achieve economic stability, community development and improved security.

The United States is not alone in funding demining efforts. Norway is also a strong leader in supporting demining in Colombia, investing $20 million from 2016 to 2020. The United States and Norway also successfully garnered further support from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, the European Union, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. The nations have all been collaborating since 2016 with the goal of ensuring Colombia is completely mine-free by the end of 2021.

Benefits of Demining

Some of the most prominent successes of this international cooperation appear in the municipalities of Nariño and La Unión, which are now completely clear of landmines. The two areas are home to more than 31,000 Colombians across 200 square miles, making the complete removal of landmines a significant victory for these communities.

In 2019, HALO (Hazardous Area Life-Support Organization) began a study to uncover the impacts of demining on local communities in Nariño and La Unión. Its study finds clear correlations between humanitarian demining in Colombia and socio-economic development that directly benefits the most financially vulnerable families.

Average housing values increased by more than 500% alongside a 38% increase in average household incomes. The study also found that 88% of newly cleared land was used productively for community development, agriculture and transportation. The communities consequently saw a return of 772 formerly displaced families as well as a substantial increase in household spending.

Beyond the quantifiable benefits to impoverished families, demining improves access to healthcare facilities, schools and other social services as previously dangerous land is clear for transportation.

Looking Ahead

Essentially, the U.S.-funded demining efforts prove to have strong economic benefits for many Colombian families, which include formerly displaced and homeless people who were most economically vulnerable. Demining successes in Colombia stand to show the significance of proper funding for humanitarian demining in order to protect impoverished populations and aid communities formerly devastated by conflict. Removing landmines has clear links to restoring security to communities trying to move past conflict and violence as well as improving economic stability.

While the recent successes from U.S. funding are promising, more funds are still needed to demine the rest of Colombia. Most importantly, the recent victories show the importance of increased funding for these efforts. Some areas, including Choco and Antioquia, have not seen the good fortune that Nariño and La Unión have and are still very much plagued by landmines. Further commitment, funding and assistance are a beacon of hope to impoverished or displaced Colombian families living in mine-strewn municipalities. U.S. funds and initiatives in Nariño and La Unión show the possibility of a mine-free future for the entirety of Colombia.

Jaya Patten
Photo: Flickr

Relief for YemenRelief for Yemen has long been a goal of humanitarian politicians and activists. A bipartisan letter, signed by four U.S. senators, urges the Biden administration to allocate more federal funding for aid to Yemen.

The Letter of Appeal

Two Republican senators and two Democratic senators signed a letter appealing for more U.S. aid to Yemen. On May 4, 2021, Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) signed the open letter together in an act of humanitarian bipartisanship. The senators voiced their concern about the international community failing to reach previously established relief goals “after a recent United Nations fundraising appeal for the war-torn country fell short.”

In March 2021, international donors raised $1.35 billion in humanitarian aid for Yemen, falling short of the United Nations’ target goal of $3.85 billion, the estimated amount required for a comprehensive humanitarian response. As one of the most powerful countries in the world, the U.S. pledged only $19 million, much less than Oxfam’s recommended $1.2 billion.

All the while, close to “50,000 people in Yemen are living in famine-like conditions” and the conflict threatens to plummet another five million people into similar conditions. The conflict itself has already claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives. The humanitarian crisis and poverty brought on by the conflict have compromised the food security of more than 20 million people, accounting for two-thirds of Yemen’s population. The United Nations warns that “400,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5 could die from acute malnutrition” without swift humanitarian action.

Efforts to End the Crisis in Yemen

The open letter came around the same times as renewed calls for a ceasefire from the international community. Senator Murphy was in Yemen when the letter was released, joining Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, as well as diplomats from Europe, with the hopes of brokering a ceasefire between Houthi rebel factions and the Saudi-led military coalition. Participants in the meeting demand an end to war crimes actively committed by both sides. The Biden administration has backed away from weapons sales in an effort to mitigate the conditions. But, the conflict and subsequent crises continue, requiring increased aid to Yemen.

UNICEF and the UN Assist

One of the priorities of UNICEF’s efforts in Yemen is to treat cases of acute malnutrition in children and assist children whose lives have been overturned by the continuous military conflict. Efforts range from facilitating access to therapeutic foods and educating children about the dangers of explosives scattered throughout the country. UNICEF is also restoring damaged schools in an effort to develop secure spaces for children to continue learning.

At a time of resurgent violence coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign aid groups have stepped up relief measures in anticipation of increased demand for food. In one particular hotspot, within the Ma’rib Governorate, the intensification of military conflict has displaced at least 2,871 families. The U.N. Regional Coordination Team for Ma’rib aims to assist about 200,000 people in the area. Sanitation, nutrition and shelter remain top priories for these efforts.

Despite the scale of the crisis, international aid groups remain determined to provide relief. Senators, leaders and foreign diplomats are continuing efforts to broker a peace deal. The severity of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen requires broader support from the global community in order to upscale efforts and comprehensively provide aid to Yemen.

– Jack Thayer
Photo: Flickr