8 Things That Would Happen If The US Didn’t Give Foreign Aid

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The United States is the largest donor of foreign aid in the world. In 2019, America donated more than 50 billion dollars in overseas aid. Critics say this money would be better used closer to home and there is a growing movement calling for a reduction in American foreign aid, or even ending it all together. But what would that look like? What would happen if the US stopped giving foreign aid?

Poverty Would Rise

The first thing that would happen if the United States stopped giving foreign aid is that poverty would rise.

Over the last twenty years, global poverty has fallen by more than half. US overseas aid funds poverty reduction projects around the world and these have played a major role in lifting people out of destitution. If America didn’t give foreign aid, these projects would not continue to run and huge numbers of people would fall back into poverty.

The United States channels millions of dollars in foreign aid through the United Nations and international NGOs with the aim of reducing poverty around the world. American overseas aid also helps governments in developing countries run programmes that aim to help people living below the poverty line. If the US didn’t give any overseas aid, international organizations would need to seek additional funds elsewhere. This may not be possible. A result would be a definite increase in global poverty

Although many factors resulted in the unprecedented reduction in global poverty in recent decades, the significant resources America has deployed to fighting poverty worldwide played a major role. If the US didn’t give foreign aid, the steps taken to help people out of destitution in some of the poorest countries in the world would be lost.

Crises Hit People Would Receive Less Aid

The second thing that would happen if the US didn’t give foreign aid is that people affected by crises, conflicts and disasters would receive less assistance.

Each year, millions of people around the world are affected by humanitarian crises. When disasters such as floods, earthquakes, extreme weather and pandemics hit vulnerable communities, often local and national authorities are unable to fully respond. Overseas aid, including significant donations by the US, can be vital in saving lives, helping injured people and allowing communities to recover. If the US stopped giving foreign aid, there would simply be less resources to help crises affected people.

Conflicts and armed violence impact huge numbers of people globally. Lives are lost and people are forced to flee their homes. International aid is vital in providing assistance to displaced people, as well as rebuilding after conflicts to allow people to return home. American foreign aid is crucial in helping refugees and if the US stopped giving international aid millions of refugees would receive less help.

The United States plays an active role in mediating many conflicts and trying to bring an end to armed violence. Without American foreign aid there would be less resources for these vital efforts.

There Would Be More Wars

Another effect of the US stopping foreign aid would be a definite increase in armed violence and wars around the world.

There are many ways that American overseas aid directly prevents wars and contains ongoing conflicts. The first is the military aid the United States provides to allied nations. By bolstering the defenses of strategically important countries, US overseas military aid is an important deterrent against aggression. Without it, nations looking to invade or support rebellions in other countries could be encouraged.

As we discussed briefly above, US foreign aid funds a wide range of peace building initiatives that aim to bring an end to armed conflicts. If America stopped giving foreign aid, many of these projects would not continue and efforts to bring peace to many parts of the world would be curtailed.

US foreign aid funds a wide range of poverty reduction and humanitarian projects around the world – many in areas previously affected by conflicts. These projects are vital in providing prospects for people and reducing the root causes of violence. If the United States didn’t give overseas aid, many regions could return to conflict.

Threats to America Would Increase

If the United States didn’t give overseas aid, threats around the world would increase. This would directly impact America.

There are a wide range of global threats – from climate change to international terror, from rogue states to drug cartels. American foreign aid directly works to address threats such as these. Military aid given by the US helps weaker states achieve security, deter aggression and tackle terrorists and criminals. American international development assistance helps nations transition to greener economies and mitigate the impact of climate change.

If America stopped giving forging aid, threats such as these would not be contained. This would mean increased conflicts; allied nations being forced to look for support elsewhere and a lack of containment of regimes that threaten their regions. An end of US foreign aid would directly hurt America as events like these would destabilise the world and even directly bring harm to US citizens.

A major reason the United States gives international aid is because it is in its own interest. An example of this is the role American foreign aid plays in containing global threats that can directly harm Americans or indirectly damage US interests.

America Would Lose Global Influence

The United States is the most powerful and influential country in the world. Its overseas aid programmes play a major role in promoting America abroad. If the US stopped giving foreign aid, it’s influence around the world would diminish.

Foreign aid is an important soft power tool. It allows countries to support other nations they see as strategically important or have alliances with. It also allows countries to spread their values, promote a positive global image and influence what happens around the world. If the US didn’t give international aid, it would significantly change how the world saw America and the impact the United States has around the world.

If America is to remain a global superpower, it needs to project its influence abroad. There are many ways powerful countries do this, and foreign aid plays a vital role.

Although the United States gives foreign aid because it is morally right to help people living in poverty and affected by crises around the world, it also allows America to assume a leadership role in global affairs. Many countries are dependent on US foreign aid and this gives the United States immense influence.

Less Children In Developing Countries Would Get An Education

One thing that would happen if the United States didn’t give foreign aid is that less children in poorer countries would receive an education.

Over the recent decades, huge progress has been made in increasing access to education for children in developing countries. US overseas aid has played a major role in this. If America didn’t donate foreign aid, many educational programmes would end and huge numbers of children would no longer be able to attend school.

There are currently 258 million children worldwide who do not receive an education. A key objective of US foreign aid is to increase access to quality education across the developing world. Without it, millions more children would fall out of education.

Girls’ education has been a major priority for US overseas aid. Enormous progress has been made in getting girls in developing countries into school in recent years. Without American foreign aid, there would be less resources available to bring education to the millions of girls who still do not receive schooling. It is likely, as US funded programmes ended, that progress made on girls’ education would be rolled-back.

It Would Be Harder To Fight Pandemics

Pandemics require a global response. US foreign aid provides significant resources to help tackle disease outbreaks. If America didn’t give foreign aid, controlling deadly diseases would be harder.

Many poorer countries do not have healthcare systems strong enough to assist people when pandemics take-hold. In fact, many developing countries fail to provide basic healthcare to their population. American overseas aid plays a vital role in fighting diseases such as HIV/Aids, malaria, yellow fever and dengue. Without it, potentially millions of people would die from curable diseases across the developing world.

From 2014 – 2016 West Africa experienced the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola. The countries affected – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, are some of the poorest in the world. American foreign aid was vital to bringing the pandemic under control and preventing the spread of the disease to other countries and regions. It is a prime example of how without US foreign aid, it would be harder to contain disease outbreaks.

The Covid-19 pandemic is another example of how if the US didn’t provide foreign aid, the world would struggle to contain diseases. America has donated millions of dollars in vaccines and treatments to developing countries. Without this assistance, huge numbers of people would die and the pandemic would continue to ravage poorer parts of the world.

There Would Be Less Resources To Address Major Global Issues

There are many global challenges that individual nations cannot address alone. A final impact of the United States ending foreign aid would be less resources being available to tackle issues that affect all countries.

Climate change is a major example of a global issues that requires a worldwide response. However, many poorer countries do not have the resources to take the measures needed to transition to greener economy or end pollution. US foreign aid plays an important role in helping developing countries go green. If America stopped giving foreign aid, global efforts to tackle climate change would be significantly hampered.

As the richest and most powerful country in the world, the United States must play a leading role in helping the world address major issues. US overseas aid is vital in helping poorer countries combat terrorism, drug cartels, international criminal gangs, the climate crises and human trafficking. These are just some example of the issues that cannot be solved by one country. If America didn’t give foreign aid, there would be less resources available for poorer countries to address challenges such as these.


Duncan is the founder of Humanitarian Careers. With over ten years experience in the aid industry across fifteen countries, Duncan set-up Humanitarian Careers to help people launch their own career in international aid.