Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Truth about Foreign Aid

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Truth about Foreign Aid

Article excerpt

What keeps many rich countries from supporting government investments to alleviate extreme suffering?

Last week, Oxfam and Save the Children released a report saying that emergency relief in the Horn of Africa came months late, costing thousands of lives and millions of dollars. Oxfam and Save the Children conclude that humanitarian assistance should be done differently. The anti-foreign aid establishment is using the report to argue that aid doesn't work and should be cut across the board.

The very fact that $2.1 billion has been donated to help the victims of the famine is a testament to human beings' generosity. But that fact of our generosity also explains why I am so frustrated by the increasing opposition in many rich countries to foreign aid.

We know people care about the suffering of others. Not only that. They are willing to express their caring by making significant donations, even in very hard times. So what keeps them from supporting government investments to alleviate extreme suffering?

According to public opinion research, many people believe aid is either stolen by corrupt leaders or wasted on ineffective programs. Naturally, no one is eager to make investments they're convinced won't pay off.

There is also the argument that aid doesn't work even when it gets to its intended recipients. This claim is not convincing either. In the past 50 years, the number of children who die every year has gone down from 20 million to fewer than 8 million. Meanwhile, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half. These massive improvements are due in large part to aid-funded programs to buy vaccines and boost farmers' productivity.

I am confident that we can get the price of AIDS drugs down to $300 per person per year in the very near future. That will mean that every $300 a country gives to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and malaria represents a person who will stay alive for another year. Every $300 that's not forthcoming represents a human being who will almost certainly die. …

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