Archive for Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Opinion: America last in foreign aid

January 2, 2002

We live in a world that tests our emotions every day. We hear about people in need; see starving children on television; we're prompted to feel the pains and heartaches of others on a daily basis.

Yes, we do respond to those hurts and needs through giving to non-profit organizations and other charitable ventures. As Americans, we think of ourselves as generous givers, just look at the outpouring in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies.

Yet, because of this tendency toward generosity, Americans have always believed our government sends millions upon billions of dollars in aide to other countries each year. Too much aide, some people think.

In reality, the United States is dead last among industrialized nations in helping the poor worldwide.

According to a recent commission report released by the World Health Organization, America is not as generous to underdeveloped countries as we tend to believe.

According to the report, we are the richest, but stingiest nation in the western world. Behind the poorer nations of Portugal and Greece on the list, the U.S. gives the least of its Gross National Product in foreign aid by advanced countries.

The W.H.O. wants to establish health care resources for underdeveloped countries, providing simple amenities such as antibiotics for tuberculosis.

What's at stake? People's lives. The price? About 1 percent of advanced countries' income.

What does this mean financially to the average person? A dime.

In December, U.S. treasury secretary Paul O'Neill dismissed proposals for increased aid to poor nations. This attitude isn't new among government officials.

Jeffrey Sachs, the Harvard professor who headed the commission, knows that it would be difficult to change the attitude of the U.S. that looks upon such aide with cynicism.

Nobody expects foreign aid to perform miracles, but such aide could save millions of people a year from treatable illnesses.

Within the U.S., among our communities, Americans freely give millions of dollars each year to charity, more so than any other country. Many Americans even give to non-profit organizations that aide underdeveloped countries with health care.

Now, we need our government to follow suit.

This could be one of the reasons for other countries despising America. The hatred may exist because we have freedom and wealth, but maybe it's because our government tends to send military aide and holds on to the aide that can actual help people.

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