New international aid figures show massive shortfall even as US foreign aid is on the chopping block

By Oxfam

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WASHINGTON, DC -- Faltering overseas aid figures announced today are depriving poor countries of a massive $18 billion worth of life-saving aid, at a time when 64 million more people globally have been pushed into poverty by the financial crisis, international humanitarian organization Oxfam warned.

The figures, from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), show an $18 billion shortfall in the promise of an additional $50 billion to be invested in aid by 2010 the G8 countries committed to in Gleneagles in 2005. The G8 pledged that $25 billion would go to Africa, but shamefully only $11 billion of that sum has been delivered.

“As we continue to struggle with economic hardships here at home, we understand that the US government will have to do more with less, but pulling the plug on poverty-fighting assistance is not the answer,” said Paul O’Brien, Vice President for Policy and Campaigns at Oxfam America. “Poorer nations are being hit doubly hard. Cutting funds to these nations will be measured in lives lost, not dollars saved.”

Relative to the size of its national income, the US ranks among the stingiest of donors. In 2010, the US spent a measly 0.21 percent of its national income on foreign aid, putting it at 19th among OECD members. For comparison, in the same year, Canada spent 0.33 percent of its national income, while Britain contributed 0.56 percent—more than twice the US percentage.

Oxfam estimates the $18 billion shortfall could have paid for:

  • Every child in the world to go to school. Currently 72 million children in poor countries are missing out on a primary education.
  • The salaries of nearly 800,000 midwives in sub-Saharan Africa, where maternal mortality rates are the highest in the world.
  • Life-saving mosquito nets for 1 million people to protect them from malaria. Nearly this many people die every year from the deadly disease. 

The OECD figures are being released at a time when the US Congress is debating budget measures, including a new short-term continuing resolution to avoid another potential government shut-down at the end of the week. Development assistance is still on the chopping block and Oxfam urges Members of Congress not to turn their backs on the world’s most vulnerable people.

“Fully funding the US international affairs budget not only helps to reduce global poverty, but it is vital in stabilizing regions threatened by disease and conflict,” said O’Brien. “As the federal budget continues to be fiercely debated in Congress this week, members should stop hiding behind the myth that cutting foreign assistance will help reduce the budget gap.”

Where most Americans think foreign aid takes up 10 percent of the federal budget according to the latest polling, in fact, less than one percent is actually used for poverty-focused development aid. This small percentage continues to be a lifeline for the estimated 2.7 billion people still struggling on less than $2 a day. 

“The new short-term spending bill introduced by the House this week cuts less than one-third of one percent of the US federal budget, yet disproportionately targets some of the best development programs that the US government has for fighting poverty,” said O’Brien. “From saving millions of lives and reducing the threat of disease to creating global markets and making the world a safer place to live in, these programs work at a much lower cost to taxpayers than using the military.”