Truth and myths about USAID and American foreign aid

Americans are woefully misinformed about not only foreign aid but also the role of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Americans generally estimate US foreign aid at 10% or more or our Federal budget. They also probably believe that this aid is mostly in food, shelter, governance, education and medical assistance. The truth, in brief, about United States’ foreign aid:

  1. The budget for international aid in the US is less than 1% of our budget.
  2. USAID depends heavily on contractors. Contractors like Haliburton and Chemonics lead the way in profiting at the rate of hundreds of millions from these contracts.
  3. USAID has very little control of these contractors.
  4. The main aim of USAID is to support US firms.
  5. All it takes is for a pressure group, like consulting engineers for example, complaining to the legislature or the While House that they are losing work as a result of technical assistance to a country, for USAID assistance to stop.
  6. US corporations have a big advantage related to bio-engineering of agricultural products, products which are mercilessly peddled to aid-receiving countries. If you want to end your career at USAID prematurely, talk about Franken-foods.
  7. USAID does not provide the prompt assistance that is needed by most countries.
  8. For most of its existence, USAID was a non-political agency, attempting to provide assistance wherever it was needed internationally. Unfortunately, by making it part of the State Department, it has almost certainly become a much more political agency.

[Read full CDN article by Mario Salazar, former USAid worker] 

Foreign aid to Afghanistan bypasses the forgotten poor

For all the billions of dollars in foreign aid that have poured into Afghanistan over the past 12 years, Sajeda, her head-to-toe burqa covered in dust, sobs that the world has forgotten the poorest of the poor in the largely untroubled north of the country.

One of the paradoxes of Western aid: the northern region of Afghanistan which supported the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 has got significantly less help than the south and east, home of the Taliban militants.

Over the past decade, much of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding has been spent in the strongholds of the insurgents as part of Washington’s strategy to win the “hearts and minds” of the local population. A disproportionate share of U.S. aid, which makes about two-thirds of all development assistance in Afghanistan, has ended up in the southern provinces where it has been used to achieve political and military objectives.

“We are the poorest and most unfortunate people of this country and no one pays attention to us. We are forgotten,” said Sajeda, who lost 12 members of her family in the landslide that killed hundreds in northern Badakhshan province.

Despite the most expensive reconstruction effort ever undertaken in a single country, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s poorest states.

[Reuters]