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What is International Aid?

Famine relief often comes in the form of food that is shipped into the country thanks to international aid.
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  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2014
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International aid is assistance provided to foreign nations in need. Most countries around the world have formal international aid programs in their governments, and in addition, services are provided by private organizations all over the world. The free flow of aid around the world is critical for many struggling nations, and even strong countries can occasionally benefit from international assistance.

This assistance can take a number of forms. Some international aid programs focus on providing money in the form of grants and loans to countries which need capital and cash. Monetary assistance can be especially beneficial for developing nations which may be struggling with debt obligations and the need to fund major infrastructure projects which will improve quality of life in the long term. Funds can be provided through governments directly, as well as organizations like the International Monetary Fund, and private aid groups.

Aid can also come in the form of donated goods such as food, garments, electronic equipment, and so forth. This type of international aid is designed to confer immediate quality of life benefits on the residents of a nation, and sometimes direct aid is preferred to funds because goods are more likely to end up in the hands of the populace, whereas cash can be funneled into private bank accounts by corrupt government officials. In critical periods of famine and other widespread social issues, donated goods can also have an immediate effect.

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Services are also a critical part of most international aid programs. In developing nations, the services of professionals such as doctors, engineers, and architects can make a substantial difference in the lives of residents. Professional services can improve the quality of life for the population, and eventually make it possible for nations to develop their own professional classes by sending people abroad for study, or establishing training facilities such as colleges.

Emergency assistance such as help with natural disasters and troop reinforcements during periods of political unrest is another form of international aid. Nations can also provide aid in the form of election monitors, visiting economists, health educators, and in many other ways. While many people think of international aid as a service provided to the third world, many developed countries have also taken advantage of international assistance: in the United States, for example, teams from all over the world assisted with recovery from Hurricane Katrina, and this aid was gratefully accepted by the American government.

To distribute the costs and burden of providing international aid, many nations pool their resources and cooperate on aid projects so that one nation does not do all the work or front all the cash. In addition to distributing the burden of international aid programs, this also fosters international cooperation and strengthens the ties between nations of all sizes.

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turquoise
Post 3

Some scholars say that international aid is like giving a man fish rather than teaching him to fish. They make the argument that if a developing nation is continuously given international aid, it will not develop.

If people are given food to eat, they won't have an incentive to cultivate their own food. It will also impact their will power to demand services, education and livelihood from their own governments.

Although I believe that this is not a good enough argument to stop international aid altogether, it does have some good points. I actually support a combination of efforts to help developing and conflict stricken countries. It may involve some international aid, but it should involve other projects to create the incentives the scholars are talking about.

One example could be a food for work project, where you are not just handing food to people, but also teaching them a skill and expecting effort in return.

ysmina
Post 2

You don't have to work for a large international aid agency to provide this service for people around the world. I was at a charity dinner once and met a group of people there that collected funds and donations through their own efforts and went to the mountainous remote areas of Pakistan to provide medical services.

There were medical students and regular volunteers who made this all happen. They were providing treatment and health care to many villages that had never visited a doctor before.

This was very inspiring and I realized that we don't have to wait for our governments to take action and provide relief. We can provide international aid even with a small group of people.

discographer
Post 1

There are some issues with international aid though. If aid is being given to developing nations which are not under full control of the government (as in independent militias ruling parts of the country), it can be a huge problem to actually transport goods to the people who need it.

This is a big problem in many parts of Africa. International organizations often send grains, medicines and other vital needs but are unable to reach it to the people. Militias or even political leaders might take the goods and use it themselves or try to sell it to the people for money.

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