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About U.S. Aid to Asian Tsunami Victims

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Dateline: December 29, 2004

U.S. aid to victims of the Asian tsunami disaster now totals $35 million. Where do the funds come from, why does the United States contribute relief to disaster victims around the world and how can you help the tsunami victims?

Source of U.S. International Disaster Relief

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead agency for distribution of disaster relief funds to foreign countries. Originally created after World War II to aid in the Marshall Plan reconstruction of Europe, USAID took its modern form in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act into law.

Since that time, USAID, an independent federal government agency, has been the principal U.S. agency to extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms.

With headquarters in Washington, D.C. and field offices worldwide, USAID works in partnership with private voluntary organizations, indigenous organizations, universities, American businesses, international agencies, other governments, and other U.S. government agencies.

Aid available through USAID is taxpayer-funded as authorized annually by Congress through the federal budget process. Persons interested in USAID's approved FY 2005 budget and a history of funds distributed to various countries should see the following Websites:

  • USAID FY 2005 Congressional Budget Justification

  • U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants

    Why Does the United States Provide So Much Foreign Aid?

    The United States has a long history of extending a helping hand to those people overseas struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or live in a free and democratic country. It is this caring that stands as a hallmark of the United States around the world -- and shows the world our true character as a nation.

    U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world. Spending less than one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget, USAID works around the world to achieve these goals.

    How You Can Help the Tsunami Victims

    According to USAID, the most effective way to assist relief efforts is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations.

    USAID encourages cash donations because they: allow aid professionals to procure the exact items needed (often in the affected region), reduce the burden on scarce resources (such as transportation routes, staff time, warehouse space, etc), can be transferred very quickly and without transportation costs, support the economy of the disaster-stricken region, ensure culturally, dietary, and environmentally appropriate assistance. The following Web sources will assist you in making contributions:

  • List of Relief Organizations Working in the Disaster Area

  • USAID's Guide to Effective Giving

  • Center for International Disaster Information
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