The issue of foreign aid, specifically humanitarian aid, is hotly debated. Since the implementation of the Marshall Plan, which sought to rebuild Europe after the devastation of World War II, foreign aid has been a constant in United States foreign policy. The problems, however, remain constant as well.
Each year the United States government gives billions of dollars in foreign aid, in the form of money, experts, military personnel, medicine and other resources, but the problems facing developing countries - either from natural disasters, man-made crises, or infectious diseases - continue to demand more. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) alone reports managing $13.9 billion in U.S. taxpayer resources in 2008. The United States is unique among first-world powers in that a great majority of its aid comes from private donations, as opposed to European countries, that send most aid through the government. This money is then filtered through various organizations, including churches, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the UN, with mixed results.
While there will always be another tsunami, hurricane or disease, the man-made disasters, such as genocide, war and corrupt government, are seemingly more preventable, and yet trillions of dollars in Western foreign aid, hours of time, and indeed entire lives spent in the cause seem not to have had a great effect. Now, over sixty years later, many politicians, writers and researchers are questioning both the method and the utility of humanitarian aid programs.
Some argue that the reason for so little progress after trillions of dollars spent by the West is that not enough has been done and not enough money and support have been given. Others argue that the support given by the U.S. and the rest of the West is abused by those in power, breeds corruption and dependency, that aid agencies aren't accountable for progress, and that local cultures and politics cannot be changed just by handing out food, medicine, or money. These critics argue that the best thing that could happen for developing countries is for government aid programs to wind down support and allow for organic, privately-led and market-based reform and support efforts to take the lead.