NGOs warn on impact of US aid cuts

16 Jun 17

The US’s planned cuts to foreign aid would have “life and death consequences” and harm American interests, according to a coalition of aid and health NGOs.


USAID made progress on transparency this year, but have further to go. Credit: USAID

USAID made progress on transparency this year, but have further to go. Credit: USAID


Organisations including Oxfam, the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and the ONE Campaign analysed the impact of the government’s proposal to slash international non-miltiary spending by one third in the 2017-18 budget.

Yesterday they said they believed it would have “devastating” effects for the poorest and most vulnerable women, children and families around the world and put US health, security and prosperity at risk.

In May, Mick Mulvaney, director of the US Office of Management and Budget, pitched the budget as upholding US president Trump’s promise to put “America First”, and as one that takes better account of the perspective of taxpayers.

“You have to have compassion for folks who are receiving the federal funds, but also you have to have compassion for the folks who are paying it.”

The US Congress is currently considering the budget proposals, announced in May. If passed, the cuts would come at a time of unprecedented global need.

As well as a spike in conflict, the world faces a wide-spread famine threatening 30 million lives, an all-time high in global displacement, with 65 million people forced to flee their homes, and a higher frequency of natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

The US has for years been by far the world’s biggest official aid donor in cash terms. According to OECD data, it delivered $33.6bn in aid last year – that’s almost $9bn more than the second largest, Germany, but still amounts to just 0.18% of the country’s GDP.

The entire international affairs budget, however, is worth almost double that – around $60bn. The proposed budget would see that cut by around $19bn.

The group of NGOs urged the US Congress to reject the foreign affairs budget and instead request and maintain current levels of funding, while a joint-report highlighted what the consequences would be if the plans went ahead. 

These included:

·         A 50% cut in agricultural and nutrition aid would see 9 million children and 5.25 million farmers and their families lose access to life-saving nutrition interventions and programmes to help them grow their way out of poverty

·         It would also mean the “complete elimination” of a set of US food aid programmes known as Title II, which reach 30 million people, during a hunger severe crisis

·         Around 2 million people would lose access to drinkable water as a result of a 45% cut in water and sanitation programmes

·         A 53% cut to basic education programmes would mean the “total elimination” of education funding in 17 developing countries


·         US development agency USAID and a number of its partner agencies would find themselves less able to reach tens of millions of people with humanitarian aid, including millions in Yemen and Syria, thanks to a 44% cut to international disaster assistance

The International Rescue Committee said such cuts would be “swift, devastating and felt for years to come”. 

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