Foreign Disaster Assistance

AID Has Been Responsive but Improvements Can Be Made Gao ID: NSIAD-93-21 October 26, 1992

When disasters strike other countries, the United States traditionally provides most of its assistance through the Agency for International Development's (AID) Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). This report (1) assesses OFDA's responsiveness to overseas disasters, including the agency's interaction with the United Nations and other nongovernmental organizations; (2) evaluates AID's budget procedures for disaster assistance from 1981 to 1990; (3) reviews AID's policy on responding to long-term or ongoing disasters; and (4) evaluates whether OFDA provides even-handed disaster assistance.

GAO found that: (1) OFDA is viewed as responsive and effective by officials from relief agencies, the United Nations, and other donors; (2) its lack of a work-force plan hindered OFDA effectiveness; (3) OFDA operates under a number of constraints that impede disaster responses; (4) since 1983, OFDA annual obligations have exceeded annual disaster assistance appropriations; (5) OFDA relies on special appropriations and borrowed funds from other AID accounts to fund its activities; (6) AID policies that link OFDA activities with ongoing development programs are unclear; (7) certain operational differences between OFDA and AID regional bureaus and missions impede the full integration of these activities; and (8) OFDA officials have advocated nonpolitical humanitarian assistance and made a good-faith effort to ensure that assistance is provided equitably.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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