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Here’s how much money Canada has committed to global humanitarian aid in recent years

Since the beginning of October, Canada has committed $60 million in aid to the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas as the Israel-Hamas war rages on.

According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), this donation to the region is more than any Canadian donation of its kind to Gaza and the West Bank in at least 20 years, more than doubling the amount of humanitarian aid provided there in all of 2021, which totalled roughly $23 million in today’s dollars.

The aid announcements come amid intensifying air strikes and ground-level fighting in Gaza by the Israeli military, the latest in a series of responses to an attack launched by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Since the war began earlier this month, there have been more than 1,400 deaths in Israel and another 8,525 Palestinians have died in Gaza, according to figures published by Israeli officials and Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry, respectively.

A press release issued earlier this month from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) read that $50 million from the 2023 aid package will “help provide food, water, emergency medical assistance, protection services and other life-saving assistance” to Palestinians impacted by the war.

“The critical and immediate needs of civilians affected by the crisis become clearer with each day that goes by,” Canadian International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said in the Oct. 21 statement.

“As Canada’s partners make their growing needs known, this new assistance will allow us to provide them funding quickly so they can scale up their efforts to help people in urgent need.”

War in Gaza joins growing list of crises abroad

The humanitarian emergency brought on by the Israel-Hamas war has joined GAC’s list of ongoing international crises targeted for Canadian aid.

Other such contributions include $58 million to address flooding in Pakistan last summer, disaster relief to Turkiye and Syria totalling roughly $80 million after earthquakes hit both countries earlier this year, and assistance to Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion. Since January 2022, Canada has contributed more than $350 million in humanitarian assistance, alongside billions more in economic and developmental aid.

“As Russia continues its brutal war against Ukraine, Canada will be there to support Ukrainians for as long as it takes,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement issued in August, on World Humanitarian Day.

Syria, Yemen and Lebanon top annual aid totals

According to the most recent available data from the OECD, Canada’s humanitarian contributions totalled roughly $1.09 billion in 2021, accounting for approximately 15 per cent of Canada’s total developmental aid that year.

The top recipients for humanitarian funding in 2021 were Syria ($90 million) and Yemen ($85 million), where conflict has created circumstances described by GAC as “devastating” and “urgent.” Lebanon has also received a significant amount of humanitarian funding from Canada ($58 million) following the 2020 explosion in Beirut, which compounded existing socioeconomic, political and pandemic crises.

“Displaced communities and those affected by conflict have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic,” GAC’s 2020-2021 report to Parliament read.

“We are proud of the work we have accomplished this year and the concrete results that have been achieved—on behalf of all Canadians—to promote an inclusive and sustainable pandemic recovery, and ultimately, build a world that is more peaceful and prosperous for all.”

Aid spending grows, but Canada lags behind G7 peers

The OECD data show steady growth for Canada’s official developmental assistance (ODA) spending in recent years, reaching $7 billion in 2021, up from $4.6 billion in 2016. Funding specifically for humanitarian causes has fluctuated in that time, rising to $1.09 billion in 2021 from $843 million in 2016. Canada also set aside $652 million in aid for refugees within the country in 2021.

ODA funding includes developmental aid that is meant to support a country’s health, education and economy, as well as humanitarian aid, which is meant to save lives and alleviate the suffering of those affected by crises. Notably, 2021 saw a steep rise in Canada’s health-related ODA spending, jumping to $1.8 billion in 2021 following the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than triple that of 2020.

Despite the year-over-year growth, Canada trails behind many other nations when it comes to aid spending, relative to its size.

Preliminary OECD data from 2022 shows that Canada spent US$7.8 billion in grant equivalents for ODA, or 0.37 per cent of the country’s gross national income (GNI) that year.

At just over half of the United Nations’ 0.7-per-cent spending target, Canada’s percentage places it fifth among its fellow G7 countries, behind Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Japan, but ahead of Italy and the United States.

Canada’s 2023 budget underscores the importance of ongoing investment in development abroad.

“Canada must continue to take action on pressing humanitarian, development, and security challenges—both here at home and around the world,” read this year’s budget, released March 28.

However, international aid groups have said the 2023 budget falls short of expectations.

“Compared to Budget 2022, the overall international assistance funding was cut by no less than $1.3 billion – a 15 [per cent] cut,” read a statement published in March by the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health, a coalition of health and human rights organizations.

“At a time of enormous need globally, the Canadian government has failed to deliver on its promise to increase foreign aid every year.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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