President Donald Trump has vowed the U.S. will re-examine its foreign aid programs, even recently threatening to withhold money from countries that don’t support American interests. Many Americans agree with him; a Rasmussen Reports poll in early 2017 found that 57 percent of likely voters believe the $42.4 billion the U.S. planned to give to other countries last year is too much. Yet other surveys have found that many people believe up to a third of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid; it’s actually around 1 percent. The U.S. spent $30.8 billion in foreign assistance in fiscal year 2016, according to USAID’s website, ForeignAssistance.gov. Here are the top 10 recipients of U.S. foreign aid for fiscal year 2016.
10. Uganda ($357 million)
Uganda presents a great example of why it’s tough to determine exactly how much any one country receives in a given year. The official ForeignAssistance.gov site shows the U.S. gave $357 million in assistance to Uganda in fiscal year 2016. However, the U.S. mission to Uganda issued a report detailing how the U.S. spent $840 million in FY 2016. Such discrepancies can occur for a number of reasons, including money that had been earmarked for a country, but not spent, in a previous year. More than half of all U.S. assistance to Uganda went to the health sector, for programs designed to limit the spread of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Other programs were designed to promote stability in the country.
9. Nigeria ($366 million)
It would be easy for outsiders to look at U.S. foreign aid and question the motives. True, billions of dollars go overseas to further U.S. economic, political and military interests. But Americans have a strong charitable spirit as well. The non-partisan Brookings Institution cites poll information that 81 percent of Americans favor “food and medical assistance to people in needy countries.” Roughly three-quarters of U.S. aid to Nigeria in 2016 went for health and humanitarian issues.
8. Kenya ($481 million)
This impoverished African nation deals with all the health issues endemic to the region, including widespread malaria, HIV/AIDS, and malnutrition. More than half the money sent to Kenya in 2016 went to health services. Another $639 million has been planned for Kenya in fiscal year 2018, more than three-quarters of that for health.
7. Jordan ($513 million)
Jordan’s small size and lack of economic resources has made it dependent on foreign aid. The history of U.S. aid to Jordan dates to 1951, but assistance has increased since the Gulf crisis in 1991. Jordan’s location, locked between Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, makes it important strategically to American interests. Jordan has also been a leading ally of the U.S. in the war on terror. In 2015, the U.S. pledged to increase annual aid to Jordan to $1 billion, to help the country handle the influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria.
6. South Sudan ($550 million)
This east-central African nation has been embroiled in civil war since 2013. The conflict has killed an estimated 300,000 and seen brutal atrocities. According to ForeignAssistance.gov, U.S. aid is designed to “prioritize mitigating the war’s human, economic, and social damage; assisting South Sudanese to rebound from trauma; and laying the foundation for a durable and just peace.”
5. Syria ($570 million)
U.S. support has helped mostly defeat the Islamic State in Syria, as U.S.-backed forces have taken almost all the territory the group once claimed. Beyond that, the U.S. has been the most generous global donor of funding for the humanitarian crisis in that nation. The conflict there has created almost 5 million refugees and internally displaced another 6.6 million.
4. Pakistan ($687 million)
Pakistan has been one of the leading recipients of U.S. foreign aid for years. But relations were severely strained after the U.S. mission to kill Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. And President Trump criticized Pakistan in a tweet earlier this year, saying, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Still, U.S. diplomats view continued aid to Pakistan as critical. According to ForeignAssistance.gov, “Assistance to Pakistan complements U.S. national security policy in neighboring Afghanistan and remains critical to the stability and prosperity of the region, as well as U.S. national security interests.”
3. Ethiopia ($816 million)
A devastating drought the past several years has affected as many as 20 million Ethiopians and evoked images of the deadly famine that spawned the Live Aid concert in 1985. The U.S. has boosted aid to the county from around $3 million per year in 2011 and 2012 to more than a half-billion dollars each year since 2013. However, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green told reporters last year that Ethiopia must increase its own spending. “The United States will continue providing assistance for vulnerable people, but we all agree host-country partners must be willing to step up during crises, and the prime minister indicated that he was looking to do so,” Green said.
2. Israel ($4.2 billion)
Israel has been by far the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. According to a Congressional Research Service report, through 2016 the U.S. had given Israel $127.4 billion in non-inflation-adjusted funds. Some critics contend the actual amount is even higher than official statistics, when one considers U.S. loans to Israel that have been forgiven, and billions in tax-deductible donations made to Israeli organizations through the years. Whatever the true figure, the U.S. financial commitment to Israel is stronger than ever; in late 2016 the two countries reached a 10-year, $38 billion military assistance agreement.
While Israel has long been one of America’s staunchest allies, attitudes toward the country have shifted. A 2014 Gallup Poll found a sharp generational divide among Americans on Israel. Only 52 percent of those 18-34 favored Israel in the continuing Israel-Palestine conflict, compared to 74 percent of those 55 and older.
1. Afghanistan ($7.2 billion)
Afghanistan has been near the top of this list annually in the post-9/11 era. Most of those tens of billions of dollars have gone for “Peace and Security,” namely, recruiting, equipping and training Afghan forces in the fight against terror. Other funding has gone to help fight corruption in government and continue improvements in health, education, and women’s rights.