5 Reasons We Need Foreign Aid

Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS

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Foreign aid saves lives. The Administration has proposed steep cuts —as much as 31%— to poverty-focused international assistance. This assistance is only 1% of our nation’s budget, yet it does a world of good.

Foreign aid helps fight AIDS and other diseases like Ebola. It is used to respond to disasters in some of the world’s poorest countries. Refugee assistance gives hope to the world’s displaced. Food aid is reaching the vulnerable in South Sudan and other countries affected by a hunger crisis. International assistance feeds, educates and keeps children healthy.

Here are 5 ways foreign aid from the United States does a world of good.

Feeding the Hungry During Crisis

South Sudan

Fact: More than 120,000 people received food assistance

Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS

South Sudan has been an independent country for less than 6 years, but ongoing conflict during that time has made food scarce, as farmers are too afraid to work their fields. Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan in February 2017, and severe hunger is spreading across the country. In Jonglei state, families are surviving by gathering wild fruit, such as lily seeds, palm seeds and roots. For most people, this is their one meal per day.

That’s why Catholic Relief Services’ Resilience and Food Security Program (RFSP) is so important. With a nearly $40 million grant from USAID’s Food for Peace program, RFSP will help communities in South Sudan recover faster from food emergencies and build resistance to future crises. Communities learn how to produce food for themselves through agriculture and livestock production, and how to anticipate and deal with any potential threats to their food system. This will not only give people the food they need now to survive, but also give them the tools they need to build a sustainable future for themselves.

“They want to be able to raise their children, to feed them, to educate them, to see them stride into the future with dignity and confidence.”     — Jerry Farrell, CRS country representative in South Sudan

Building up Youth

El Salvador and Honduras

Fact: Program will reach 20,000+ youth by 2020

In Central America, more than 1 million young people ages 15-25 years are out of school and unemployed, many of them lacking the basic skills to enter the labor market. Meanwhile, Honduras and El Salvador are among the top 5 countries with the highest murder rates in the world. The escalating violence is stifling investment and economic growth, further limiting opportunities for jobs.

We believe that young people in even the poorest and most conflict-ridden neighborhoods have the power to change their lives and communities. The YouthBuild program helps unemployed and out of school youth ages 16-24 go back to school, get a job or start their own business. CRS is providing training for 20,000 youth in Central America, including life skills, vocational training, entrepreneurship, savings groups and community service in the kind of positive environment young people need to flourish.

Grants from the Department of Labor’s Bureau for International Labor Affairs (ILAB) help thousands of at-risk youth in Honduras and El Salvador develop marketable skills and secure employment, making them much less likely to fall victim to gang violence and exploitative child labor. 

“In countries with some of the worst gang violence in the world, economic opportunity for young people is a life line,” says Rick Jones, senior technical advisor for Latin America & Caribbean at Catholic Relief Services. “The United States has led efforts to protect vulnerable children and their families in Honduras and El Salvador for nearly two decades. They need our help accessing the opportunities that exist in their communities so that they are not forced to migrate elsewhere to find them.”

“There are youth enrolled in the YouthBuild program actively striving for a brighter future. Pull the plug now and that brightness goes dark real fast.” — Rick Jones

Nourishing Bodies & Minds


Fact: About 77,000 meals are served to Mali students daily

Photo by Michael Stulman/CRS

Most teachers will tell you it’s hard for children to learn if they’re hungry.

With continued support from the USDA, CRS is making sure tens of thousands of children in Mali receive a meal at school every day. As part of CRS’ Food for Education (FFE) program launched in the Mopti and Koulikoro regions of Mali, children receive lunch as well as food and de-worming medication to take home. That encourages school enrollment and increases attendance.

“It was wonderful to see so many girls in the school I visited in Takoutala,” says CRS president Sean Callahan, who traveled to Mali to attend the launch of FFE’s third phase. “It is proven that an education for a girl not only increases the possibility for a better livelihood, but also has an impact on their families.”

“An educated woman shares her knowledge and she sees to it that they are well-fed and in good health.”— Sean Callahan

School feeding programs like FFE not only encourage children to enroll in school and attend regularly, they also provide essential nutrients, improving children’s ability to learn.

“We aim for the school kitchens to become self-sustained by the time this phase ends in 2020 and we look forward to working with our partners on this in the coming years,” says Niek de Goeij, CRS country representative in Mali. “We are confident that with government and community ownership, children will continue to go to school, be well nourished and flourish.


Fact: CRS has trained more than 700 cooks on hygienic food preparation

CRS provides critical nutrition and education programs for children in Laos through the United States Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education program.

More than 40,000 students attending primary schools in targeted communities receive a nutritious hot lunch and increased literacy instruction as well as have access to improved water and sanitation facilities.

“This project is not only about school lunches. It’s about improving educational outcomes in some of the poorest communities in Laos,” says Bernie F. Chaves, CRS country representative in Laos. “Access to a nutritious lunch will help increase enrollment and school attendance.”

This investment in education also includes extensive training of teachers to improve the quality of education that children receive.

CRS also helps to improve access to education for children living with disabilities. CRS believes that every child has a right to education and works with the government of Laos to increase the number of children living with disabilities who can attend schools. Learn more about our work in Laos.

Adapting to Drought and Climate Change


Fact: More than 475,000 people have been reached by risk-reduction activities

Photo by Petterik Wiggers for CRS

Ethiopia is suffering its worst drought in 50 years. Coping with the effects of drought and climate change have become daily challenges for millions of Ethiopians. Prolonged drought, erratic rainfall and land degradation are posing challenges that have pushed people to the edge.

The Resilience through Enhanced Adaptation, Action-Learning and Partnership project or REAAP is a 3-year project led by CRS and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It helps nearly half a million people adapt new practices and technologies to mitigate the devastating impact of drought and better withstand climate change in the communities of 6 vulnerable districts in Oromia state.

REAAP aims to create stronger families by helping them to become more economically secure, buy food, pay for education and better withstand the effect of climate change, drought and food shortages. Communities learn to identify and address their risks and challenges—from land and soil degradation or financial instability, to a lack of water sources or poor nutrition. They select activities, create a plan and work together to implement manageable, sustainable and low-tech solutions. Learn more about REAAP.


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