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

September 7, 2021
Photo by Kieran McConville

Ever wondered which countries are getting the most foreign aid? We answer your questions about how much the United States gives to other countries — and what it is used for.

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.) We’ll be following this same classification in our reporting below.

How much money does the US give to other countries? And who’s getting the most?

There is always a lag time for reporting accurate numbers, so for 2021, we’ll be using what was allocated and planned for 2020 (these numbers may differ with what was actually paid out last year). In this year, the United States planned to spend $43 billion in foreign aid (it allocated the same amount for 2019, and ultimately spent $45 billion). Almost a quarter of that budget would go to just ten countries:

  1. Israel ($3.3 billion)
  2. Jordan ($1.52 billion)
  3. Egypt ($1.43 billion)
  4. Tanzania ($547 million)
  5. Kenya ($544 million)
  6. Uganda ($533 million)
  7. Mozambique ($522 million)
  8. South Africa ($482 million)
  9. Zambia ($457 million)
  10. Iraq ($454 million) 

Learn more about our work (supported in part by foreign aid)

It’s also worth noting the breakdown between economic and military spending in these countries: Of the nearly $4.5 billion foreign aid dollars allocated to the top 10 countries, 54% of it ($5.28 billion) was designated as military funds. That’s over 78% of overall US foreign military aid ($6.7 billion) in 2020. 

What are the countries receiving foreign aid doing with all that cash?

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 in aid for 2020 was designated for military assistance according to USAID. 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, Kenya was set to receive almost exclusively humanitarian assistance funding in 2020 (less than 0.18% of its funding was earmarked for military assistance). As in previous years, the majority of economic aid was designated for emergency response, along with developmental food aid and food security assistance, and maternal and child health

A distribution of tarpaulins in DRC

A Concern distribution of tarpaulins to displaced families in Katale, Masisi, DRC. Concern’s programming in the region is made possible by funding from the US government, amongst other sources. 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.