Read caption Photo from emergency food distribution in Ngop, South Sudan, March 9 2017. Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran/NRC

US foreign aid cuts threaten lives in world’s poorest countries

Published 16. Mar 2017
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is alarmed by US President Donald Trump’s announcement today of his administration’s intention to cut the international affairs budget, which includes humanitarian aid, development and diplomacy, by US$10.1 billion or 28 per cent, to bolster a $54 billion hike in military spending.

"The question is not if human lives will be lost as a result of President Trump's decision to slash spending on foreign aid and diplomacy; the question is how many and how soon," warned Joel Charny, NRC's Director in the United States.

"Today, over 65 million people are on the move, forced from their homes by war and persecution. A famine was recently declared in parts of South Sudan. Multiple other countries face mass starvation. It's inhumane to make unprecedented cuts to aid like this, at a time when we are struggling to respond to multiple humanitarian crises."

The United States is the largest humanitarian donor in the world. In 2016 alone, it provided $6.4 billion for emergencies - about a third of the overall $22.1 billion spent globally by aid agencies. This included distributing lifesaving food in South Sudan, preventing HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and rebuilding Afghanistan's education system so children can return to school.

But while the amount of foreign aid the US donates is high, it is less than 1 per cent of its overall federal budget.

"The potential savings do not justify the cost in terms of the lives lost and the negative impact on vulnerable people around the world," said Charny.

The Trump budget proposal states that it retains "significant funding for humanitarian assistance", although it does not provide a detailed breakdown of specific accounts. The one humanitarian account mentioned is the $70 million Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA), a contingency fund for rapid response to displacement crises that the budget proposal eliminates.

Even if humanitarian aid spending is maintained but development aid is cut, this will have disastrous effects. Development aid is vital to prevent emergencies and help societies to recover afterwards. It helps create a more stable world. Development aid is a more effective way to make America safer, not increasing military spending. The latter is already at a level greater than the combined total of the military budgets of the next 11 countries.

"We are also deeply worried that the foreign aid cuts are not just about money," Charny said. "They are about disrupting the global institutions that President Trump does not believe in, like the United Nations. The UN was set up after World War II to make the world a safer place. But as part of the President's America First agenda he wants to weaken it and condition US support on furthering US national interests."

"This will make America and the world much more insecure."


For interview, contact:
In Washington: Joel Charny, Director, NRC USA,, + 1 202 360 7049
In Oslo: Michelle Delaney, Media Adviser,, + 47 941 65 579