Effects of the Budget: Foreign Aid to Africa Cut by 70%

Words by: Molly Schmidt
Image credit: 360globalimpact.org

Due to the 2015 budget, Australia’s foreign aid to Africa has been reduced by 70 per cent. Which means essential water, sanitation, health and education programs will be cut from areas in desperate need.  Oxfam Campaign Coordinator for WA, Paddy Cullen, says this will be devastating for people in Sub-Sahara countries, and will mainly affect woman and girls.

Due to the cuts, Oxfam will have to reduce their aid programs in Africa, which Mr. Cullen says will affect thousands and thousands of people. He says they will be forced to choose which programs to cut, and that the result will be horrific for the people of Sub-Sahara countries. “We’re talking about basic human rights – things like water, food education.” Cullen says the clean water programs “allow children to reach their fifth birthday, not die of diarrhea, and have a good start in life.” Many of these water programs will be cut.

It’s surprising, but a lot of people have no idea how much (or how little) we give in total to help countries less fortunate than us. Mr. Cullen says most people think we give about 20 per cent of our global national income to foreign aid, when in reality we give less than one per cent. He says “people would be really ashamed of the country if they knew how little we were giving.” As of last week, we will give 25 cents for every 100 dollars, and this is set to sink even lower. That’s not even enough for a box of tic tacs.

In 2000, the United Nations got together to develop the Millennium Development Goals – eight international development goals of which the first was to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”. It was agreed that to achieve these goals, developed countries must aim to give 0.7 per cent of their global national income as foreign aid by 2015.

Sadly, seeing as we are still living in a world in which poverty exists, gender equality does not, the environment is suffering badly and diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria take way too many lives, we can conclude that the Millennium Development Goals have not been achieved. For us to one day live in a world without hungry bellies and horrible, yet easily avoided, diseases countries like Australia who are not giving the required 0.7 per cent in foreign aid, will have to pick up their game.

Mr. Cullen says our aid effort is “pitiful” compared to what many other countries are giving. He says the U.K. give 70 cents out of every 100 dollars – still less than a box of tic tacs, but hey, they are on target with the U.N.’s requirements. They are also in four times the amount of debt as Australia. Mr. Cullen says that for Australia to claim we have an economic crisis is completely wrong. He says “We don’t have an economic crisis, we have a moral crisis because of our failure to give what the United Nations has asked”.

According to Oaktree, a youth run organization concerned with ending extreme poverty, over the last twenty years, 700 million people have been lifted out of poverty, 2.3 billion gained access to clean drinking water, and 32 million lives we saved by providing treatment for TB, Malaria, and AIDS. These kinds of figures show how foreign aid changes peoples’ lives.

Mr. Cullen says since 1990 extreme poverty has been halved, and he raises the point that countries who were once recipients of aid are now donor countries, helping other poorer countries through. He says that “it’s not about charity, it’s about partnership with the developed and the developing world”.

It seems like giving aid could end up being in our own best interest anyway. As Mr. Cullen points out, aid helps secure peace, and “people with jobs, people who are not hungry, are less likely to be radicalized, and more likely to be friendly with Australia…and more likely to be able to buy things off Australia in the future.”

When you think about it, do you really need that box of tic tacs anyway?