Foreign aid has taken a bit of the spotlight recently thanks to the publication of the Gates letter. The founder of Microsoft even went on to chat with Jimmy Fallon and enlisted his help to make a viral video for the site.
The short of it all is that foreign aid has done a lot of good in the world.
Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs has long been a strong advocate for using foreign aid to solve some of the greatest problems in the world, including poverty and health. As he explains in Foreign Policy:
During the past 13 years, the greatest breakthroughs in aid quantity and quality came from the field of public health (unlike other social sectors, such as education and sanitation, where aid increases were far less notable). As a result, the outcomes in public health in poor countries have also advanced markedly. Not only did aid quantities for public health improve; new public health institutions, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, were created to promote the effective delivery of the increased aid.
Sachs proceeds to describe why critics of foreign aid are wrong.
Across the board, the post-2000 improvements in public health in sub-Saharan Africa have been dramatic, strongly supported by scaled-up aid. Up to 10 million HIV-infected individuals are now receiving life-saving, anti-retroviral medicines thanks at least in part to aid programs. Tuberculosis (TB) patients are being treated and cured, with a global TB mortality rate drop of 45 percent since 1990, and an estimated 22 millionpeople alive due to TB care and control from 1995-2012, thanks to Global Fund support, which provides the lion’s share of donor financing to fight TB. With increased donor support, antenatal health visits, institutional deliveries, and access to emergency obstetrical care are all on the increase, contributing to a decline in sub-Saharan Africa’s maternal mortality rate (the annual number of female deaths per 100,000 live births) from 850 in 1990 to 740 in 2000 to 500 in 2010. Deaths of children under five worldwide have declined from 12.6 million a year in 1990 and 10.8 million in 2000 to 6.5 million in 2012.
These successes demonstrate a key lesson: that well-designed aid programs with sound operating principles, including clear goals, metrics, milestones, deliverables, and financing streams, can make an enormous difference, and that such programs should be devised and applied on a large scale in order to benefit as many people as possible. Such quality design needs to be based on the details of best practices, such as the combination of medicines, bed nets, and diagnostics used in cutting-edge, community-based malaria control.
Read his full piece here.