Foreign aid by country: Who is getting the most — and how much?

February 7, 2022
Photo by Kieran McConville

Ever wondered which countries are getting the most foreign aid? Updated for 2021, here’s a breakdown of US foreign aid by country.

Despite its strong association with the federal budget, foreign aid isn’t just money. It’s anything that one country donates or provides for the benefit of another country. This can be money. However, foreign aid can also include goods, such as food or technical support. Most of US foreign aid funds go through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a semi-independent agency that manages the lion’s share of America’s development and humanitarian aid. 

We’ve previously explained foreign aid, and covered some popular foreign aid myths and facts. Now, let’s take a look at who receives the most foreign aid, and how the US is contributing to much-needed development and humanitarian activities around the world. Broadly speaking, the US government classifies foreign as one of two categories: military aid and economic aid. (Military aid includes funding for counterterrorism and counternarcotics initiatives, conflict mitigation, and security sector reform.) Normally, we follow this same classification. However, the most recent data for US foreign aid spending in 2021 is, as of February 2022, still only partially reported. For now, we’re looking at 2021 spending solely by economic aid.

US foreign aid spending 2021

Foreign aid by country 2022

In 2021, the United States budgeted $38 billion for foreign aid spending. As of this reporting, it has disbursed over $32 billion. Almost 25% of that budget has gone to just ten countries:

  1. Ethiopia ($1.13 billion)
  2. Jordan ($1.03 billion)
  3. Afghanistan ($860 million)
  4. South Sudan ($821 million)
  5. Congo ($814 million)
  6. Yemen ($814 million)
  7. Nigeria ($803 million)
  8. Syria ($774 million)
  9. Sudan ($488 million)
  10. Somalia ($475 million) 

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US foreign aid spending by country for 2021 (partially reported as of February 2022)

What are the countries receiving foreign aid doing with the money?

What countries do with their foreign assistance from the United States depends on what the aid is earmarked for.

In countries like Iraq, for example, 55% of its $454 million funding in 2020 was designated for military assistance. This can include a broad range of programming, from counter-terror operations to strengthening legal and judicial systems. 

On the other end of the spectrum, each of the countries above have — so far — received only economic assistance in 2021 and no military funding. In many of these cases, the majority of economic aid has been designated for areas such as emergency response, food security, and maternal and child health

A distribution of tarpaulins in DRC

A Concern distribution of tarpaulins to displaced families in Katale, Masisi, DRC. USAID contributes to Concern’s programming in the region. (Photo: Kieran McConville)

Where does Concern fit in all this?

Concern Worldwide’s funding comes from a variety of sources, including the US government. The difference American foreign aid makes to the people that we work with cannot be overstated. In 2019, received more than $41 million from the US Government in 2019 to support 26 programs in more than a dozen countries. In 2019, our US government-funded programs reached nearly 10 million people.

Continuous funding from USAID between 2008 and 2019 fueled Concern’s Child Survival projects, which reached over 1.9 million women, children, community volunteers, and health workers in seven countries. This work was part of the largest USAID-NGO partnership for health, and the second-largest overall USAID-NGO partnership in the organization’s history. 

USAID was also a key funder for Community Management of Acute Malnutrition, a pilot program that Concern co-developed 20 years ago that has now recognized by World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme as a best practice in child nutrition.

Another key Concern project, the National NGO Program on Humanitarian Leadership (NNPHL) was made possible in part by foreign aid, which in turn has trained dynamic and relevant training opportunities that help learners build their skills, knowledge, and confidence to take on leadership responsibilities in humanitarian organizations in order to improve the delivery of services to those in need of humanitarian assistance. Since the program began in 2019, NNPHL has received more than 4,000 applications and trained 243 humanitarians from 51 countries.

Foreign Aid by Country