FACTBOX: Facts about U.S. foreign assistance

Wed Jan 6, 2010 2:00pm EST

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(Reuters) - As President Barack Obama seeks to improve the United States' image overseas and make U.S. aid more effective, there is support for an overhaul of the way the United States distributes foreign assistance.

Leading Democrats and Republicans say they want to rewrite the 50-year-old legislation governing U.S. foreign aid.

Here are some facts about U.S. foreign aid:

* Almost 50 percent of U.S. international assistance goes to six countries that are Washington's allies in the campaigns against terror and drug trafficking.

* The biggest portion of U.S. aid goes to Iraq ($4.27 billion), Afghanistan ($1.46 billion), Sudan ($725 million), Colombia ($562 million), Egypt ($541 million), Nigeria ($514 million), Democratic Republic of Congo ($486 million) and Pakistan ($465 million).

(Figures are for Gross Bilateral Official Development Assistance, 2006-2007 average)

* The United States has always been the world's largest donor, except in the mid-1990s when Japan briefly topped the list.

* When measured as a share of a country's gross national income, the most generous donor nations in 2007 were Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands, with the United States coming in at No. 22.

* Total U.S. official development assistance, known as ODA, rose to $26.8 billion in 2008 from $21.78 billion in 2007 and $23.5 billion in 2006.

* During his presidential campaign Obama committed to doubling U.S. foreign assistance to $50 billion by 2010.

* In his first year as president, Obama made agriculture a major focus of his development agenda by pledging $3.5 billion toward a new $20 billion global fund to increase investment in agriculture in poor countries over the next three years.

* After long delays, the Obama administration named former Department of Agriculture chief scientist, Rajiv "Raj" Shah, as new head of USAID on December 24. Challenges for the new USAID administrator include defining the agency's mandate and ensuring that U.S. aid is made more effective.

* Obama decided to expand the U.S. government's main development fund set up by the Bush administration, the Millennium Challenge Corp. Congress increased funding for the MCC to $1.1. billion, less than the $1.4 billion requested by the president, but still a 26 percent rise over 2009.

* The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was launched in 2003 by the Bush administration to combat global HIV/AIDS, the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease. The U.S. Congress has authorized up to $48 billion for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria over the next 5 years.

* U.S. development assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa was $8 billion in 2008, up from $5.9 billion in 2007, down from $6.9 billion in 2006. The largest recipients of U.S. aid in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2007 were Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.

* Americans privately give at least $34 billion overseas annually.

* International giving by U.S. foundations amount to about $1.5 billion a year.

* Charitable giving by U.S. businesses totals around $2.8 billion a year.

Sources: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Center for Global Development, Brookings Institute, One Campaign

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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