Foreign aid is money that is given by the United States government to governments of other nations. According to the Congressional Research Service, there are five categories of foreign aid: economic assistance, humanitarian aid, multilateral economic contributions, bilateral development aid, and military aid.
The U.S. provides aid to countries that are recovering from war, developing countries, and countries that are strategically important to the U.S. In 2019 (the most recent year for which comprehensive numbers have been released), the U.S. spent over $47 billion on foreign aid – about the same as 2018 and $1 billion more than in 2017. More than 35% of that aid went to ten countries.
10 countries that receive the most U.S. foreign aid:
- Afghanistan ($4.89 billion)
- Israel ($3.3 billion)
- Jordan ($1.72 billion)
- Egypt ($1.46 billion)
- Iraq ($960 million)
- Ethiopia ($922 million)
- Yemen ($809 million)
- Colombia ($800 million)
- Nigeria ($793 million)
- Lebanon ($790 million)
Several governmental agencies provide foreign aid, including the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Energy, and the Peace Corps, just to name a few. As a rule, foreign aid falls into one of two categories: military aid and humanitarian (economic, developmental, or emergency relief) aid.
Many countries all over the world receive foreign aid from the United States, but there are a few that receive significant amounts. Iraq received over $5 billion in 2016, Afghanistan also receives several billion, Israel received over $3 billion, and Egypt and Jordan each received over $1 billion in aid. These countries receive a significant amount of military aid. In fact, all of Israel’s $3.1 billion was in military aid.
Other nations have received economic and development aid. Countries in Africa received about 32% of U.S. aid. Nations that benefit include Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. About 31% of U.S. aid is spent in the Middle East, while 25% is spent in Asia.
Compared to other nations, the U.S. by far spends more foreign aid than anyone else. Germany is the next largest donor, but the U.S. spends over $10 billion a year more than this nation. That said, when considering foreign aid as a percentage of total GDP ($21.43 trillion in 2019), the U.S. is one of the lowest spenders among all developed countries.