For one thing, many think foreign aid is simply a matter of handouts, giving people food and clothing and such. Actually, all sorts of things come under foreign aid. Some of US foreign aid funding goes to Israel and Egypt, as part of the Camp David accords. Some supports the needs of other governments. And a portion is aimed at helping the poor in the developing world. Certainly there are food assistance programs to help the hungry and vulnerable – often children – but there is still so much more to foreign aid. For example, foreign assistance develops agriculture so that self-reliance can grow in areas where, now, one bad harvest or one dry rainy season can create a need for emergency aid.
Other programs bring water, sanitation, and health services – really the essentials of life – to the poorest of the poor. Still others build up civic structures so that people can begin to have a stronger voice in shaping their own fate. Self-reliance is the focus and goal of such foreign aid today.
As members of a faith-based organization, we at Catholic Relief Services do not hesitate to make the moral argument for such spending. While we understand that all must sacrifice in this time of financial austerity, we do not think it is right to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. We are confident that the majority of Americans, of all faiths and beliefs, share that moral understanding.