How does your knowledge of U.S. poverty-focused foreign assistance stack up against the average American’s knowledge?

Every year the Kaiser Family Foundation surveys Americans on their ideas of foreign assistance. The results: most Americans have misconceptions about foreign assistance.

U.S. foreign assistance can be complicated, but it has a part in saving over 3 million lives per year. Let’s dive deeper to learn what it is, and more importantly, what it does.

U.S. foreign assistance is money that is given to agencies like USAID to help development and humanitarian assistance programs across more than 100 countries. USAID stands for the United States Agency for International Development, which is the primary U.S. government agency responsible for executing U.S. foreign assistance programs. It was created in 1961 by John F. Kennedy and transformed U.S. foreign assistance programs by bringing together many organizations and programs. Other agencies that fund and oversee U.S. foreign assistance programs include the Peace Corps, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Department of Defense, and more. These agencies all have different humanitarian and development purposes, but they work together to meet the goals for U.S. foreign assistance.

But how are development and humanitarian assistance different? Humanitarian assistance is used to help with disaster relief, crisis management, and short-term situations. The focus is on helping people survive in the aftermath of a natural disaster or in the midst of a conflict. This would include things like food and water, medical support, and shelter. Development assistance is focused on the long-term solutions to poverty. It looks at systemic issues and comes alongside communities and individuals to lend them a hand as they step out of poverty.

Though there are many more nuances to U.S. foreign assistance, we hope this gives you a little more insight into how these programs work and their history. If you want to learn more, check out these resources:

The Borgen Project on U.S. Foreign Aid

The Kaiser Family Foundation on Foreign Assistance

Oxfam America’s Foreign Aid 101

Foreign Assistance 101

Currently, life-saving U.S. foreign assistance programs are at risk of being cut, but you can help.

Act For Foreign Assistance Now

Photo: Harriet Adong, 24, cooking orange flesh sweet potatoes in their kitchen in Onyapoyere village thanks to a program partially funded by USAID. © 2015 World Vision/ photo by Simon Peter Esaku

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