Our Issues

Extreme Poverty

Poverty is a burden that weighs on every nation, stunts every economy, and is an underlying source of fragility that contributes to conflict, violence, and instability in every part of the world. Recognizing poverty as the humanitarian and security crisis that it is, the United States has long prioritized human development as a central tenet of its foreign policy and national security frameworks. The U.S. has played a leading role in reducing poverty globally through foreign aid and development programs. In his first major foreign policy speech as president, President Biden asserted, “when we invest in economic development of countries, we create new markets for our products and reduce the likelihood of instability, violence, and mass migration.” That is why the U.S. remains the world’s leading provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in terms of dollars and why legislation like the Global Food Security Act continues to enjoy bipartisan support in Congress. While foreign aid for development and humanitarian programs comprises less than 1 percent of the total federal budget, it has an outsized impact globally. Over the last 30 years, U.S. leadership on poverty eradication and development has contributed to a dramatic decrease in global extreme poverty rates: from 36.3 percent of the world’s population in 1990 to 8.6 percent in 2018.

Still, an estimated 689 million people live in extreme poverty today. The weight of this burden is disproportionately concentrated across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and falls hardest on the shoulders of the world’s women and children. It is estimated that by 2030, two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected countries. These are the same regions already struggling to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Bank estimates that since the start of the pandemic, 20 million more people are experiencing extreme poverty in fragile and conflict-affected countries, and by 2023, the GDP of these countries is anticipated to fall 7.5 percent below pre-pandemic forecasts. These conditions not only harm the health and livelihoods of millions of people, but also undermine the prospects of enduring peace and stability near and far.

“When we invest in economic development of countries, we create new markets for our products and reduce the likelihood of instability, violence, and mass migration.”

— President Joe Biden Hear this quote in context On Poverty Abroad

In September 2015, acknowledging poverty eradication as the “greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development,” world leaders prioritized ending poverty in all its forms as the top Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, the U.N. Secretary-General’s 2022 report on SDG progress warned that “years, or even decades, of development progress have been halted or reversed” due to the “multiple and interlinked global crises” of COVID-19, climate change, and conflicts like the war in Ukraine. Compared with pre-pandemic projections, these destabilizing and compounding crises will push an estimated 75 to 95 million additional people into extreme poverty in 2022.

The Latest

Despite repeated attempts by the Trump administration to enact deep and devastating cuts to the International Affairs Budget (IAB), Congress has ensured that U.S. funding for foreign assistance has remained mostly consistent in recent years, and increased by 1.1 percent in Fiscal Year 2022 from 2021 levels (excluding emergency funding). This funding package was substantially smaller than the Biden administration requested in its proposal, which would have increased the regular IAB by 12 percent to address unprecedented and increasingly complex challenges that don’t respect borders – from pandemics to climate change.


of Americans say they favor food and medical assistance to people in needy countries.

These critical funds equip the U.S. Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to assist in the economic development, health, and security of more than 200 countries each year—ensuring global partners and allies have the resources needed to address the root causes of extreme poverty and the conditions that exacerbate it, which in turn advances American interests. As stated by USAID Administrator Samantha Power, “the work we do abroad also matters to the American people here at home—it makes us safer, it makes us more prosperous, and it engenders goodwill that strengthens alliances and global cooperation.”

This strategic case for foreign aid is exemplified by the Biden administration’s actions to mitigate the global shockwaves of Russia’s war in Ukraine on global poverty and food insecurity. At the 2022 G7 Leaders’ Summit, President Biden pledged an additional $2.76 billion to support the most vulnerable populations bearing the brunt of the global food security crisis in over 47 countries, bringing American investment to mitigate rising poverty and hunger up to $5.56 billion since the start of Russia’s escalation in Ukraine. Biden also announced the expansion of  Feed the Future at the Summit, adding eight new countries to the U.S. government’s global food security initiative. The Feed the Future and Food for Peace humanitarian and development programs to provide emergency food aid and address the root causes of poverty and hunger have strong track records. In areas where Feed the Future operates, the program helped lift an estimated 23.4 million people above the poverty line and prevented the stunting of 3.4 million children from malnutrition.

However, despite these crucial investments, to get ahead of the increasingly complex and interconnected threats of climate change, pandemics, and inequality, and resume progress on poverty eradication and development gains, U.S. support for foreign assistance must go far beyond where it is now. Today, a majority of wealthy countries—including the U.S.—fall well-short of the U.N. aid target of 0.7 percent of GNI for international development spending. In fact, despite being the world’s leading provider of foreign aid in terms of dollars, the U.S. sits near the bottom of this list.

What You Can Do

U.S. leadership on global poverty eradication has meant new markets for American businesses, new opportunities for global youth and women, and stronger health systems that better prevent and manage pandemic diseases—all while creating a more secure and just world. We are asking Members of Congress to increase funding for U.S. humanitarian and development assistance programs and support other efforts to address extreme poverty.

Call your Senators and Representative at 202-224-3121 and ask them to support: