The high cost of foreign aid budget cuts

A mother gives her daughter a drink full of rehydrating salts at Banadir hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, on March 9, 2017. Somalia is currently experiencing a severe drought, and may be on the brink of famine unless urgent humanitarian action is taken soon.

by Melissa Proulx


In 2011, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) featured a Somalian baby named Minhaj and his journey from near-death starvation to recovery in an IRC hospital in Kenya. Typically, when I hear the word baby, one of the first things I think of is roundness: babies have chubby bodies, chunky arms and legs, and big round heads.

Not Minhaj.

The picture of Minhaj in the early stages of treatment looks nothing like those babies. His arms look breakable, even his face is thin and his expression is anguished. Luckily, there is another picture. This time of an energetic and much healthier Minhaj, and he looks like an entirely different baby. He’s round and happy, the way babies should be.

Minhaj’s recovery was possible because of the assistance he received from the IRC, which is funded by donors and government sources. I shudder to think of his fate had he not received it. Unfortunately, that fate is a real possibility for other starving children because of major cuts to foreign aid proposed by the Trump administration.

According to The Guardian, the Trump administration’s suggested cuts to foreign aid would take foreign food aid funding “from $3.5 billion in 2017 – enough to feed 67 million people – to $1.5 billion in 2018, enough to feed only 29 million,” leaving 38 million people susceptible to starvation.

Even one person starving to death is too many and these cuts couldn’t come at a worse time. South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia are at risk of famine, and people are already starving in these countries.

$3.5 billion sounds like a lot of money, but not when you put it in context. Relative to other countries, the U.S. spends much less proportionally, even if the amount of money is larger. Though there is some controversy over the exact percentage, less than 1% of the U.S. budget went towards foreign aid in 2013.

The cost to individual taxpayers comes out to about $80 per person per year, which is less than what Americans spend per person on candy.

Those figures represent all foreign aid, not just that spent on food. Foreign aid also goes toward protecting refugees and preventing diseases, issues which are also incredibly important and will suffer from the proposed cuts.

I don’t know what the money saved by these budget cuts would be spent on, but I can’t think of anything that would be worth sacrificing a starving child’s survival.

Please urge your members of Congress to oppose these cuts, because children’s lives depend on it

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Melissa Proulx is a 23-year-old writer and volunteer for Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) in Pembroke, New Hampshire. She graduated from UNH with a BA in English in May 2016. In addition to supporting the work of SCAN, Melissa is passionate about child abuse prevention, animal rights, and criminal justice reform, as well as other causes. Melissa is also working on writing and illustrating a children’s book.