5 random things we spend our money on that make global aid look like pocket change.

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Posted on: 24/02/2017

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$2 billion actually isn't that much when you put it in perspective.

The amount we all spent on airline baggage fees last year is more than the amount needed to save the lives of 2 million little kids.

Isn't that pretty wild to think about?  

Together we spent $3.1 billion on baggage fees in 2016 — on top of our actual tickets — so that U.S.-based airlines could transport our crap (what an industry!). That's a billion more dollars than what's needed to stay on track with our global nutrition targets.  

If governments, organizations, and donors around the world spent an additional $2 billion annually over the next 10 years, we could save 2.2 million lives — and reduce stunting in 50 million children. 50 MILLION children!

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Right now, malnutrition is killing 3 million children a year, contributing to 45% of all deaths of kids under 5, and costing our world billions of dollars in lost productivity.

Did I mention it's completely preventable?

In 2012, the World Health Assembly (WHA), composed of 194 member states, endorsed its first-ever plan to drastically improve nutrition in children in developing countries by 2025. They are focusing on six main targets: stunting, exclusive breastfeeding, wasting, anemia, low birthweight, and overweight. It's smart and awesome.

What's not awesome, though, is that they're not on track to hit any of those nutrition goals. Country governments and donors are spending $3.9 billion total on nutrition-specific programs, according to the World Bank. But that's not enough to close the gap and stay on track. If they were to come together and spend an additional $2.2 billion, they could get back on it.

Now, $2 billion a year sounds like quite a bit of money — until you put some things into perspective.

Here are five random expenditures that show why investing $2.2 billion in our future generations should be a no-brainer:

1. Americans spent close to a billion dollars on UNUSED gift cards in 2015.

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More specifically, that's $973 million that's just sort-of ... THERE. It's just hanging out in a digital retail cloud somewhere, waiting to be used on apparel or appliances that, ironically, may actually remain unused.

2. Even more staggering: Americans spent $119 billion on gambling losses in 2013.

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Not wins. Not even break-evens. LOSSES. I mean, if we could somehow pool just a fraction of that to create the most charitable pot the world has ever seen, wouldn't that be a win-win for everyone?

3. We're apparently a thirsty country — Americans spend $105.9 billion a year on beer.

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Granted, there's no denying that people love their beer. But what if, like, instead of buying the usual "one for the road," we turned the equivalent into "one for a good cause"?

4. Americans spend over $10 billion on credit card late fees.

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Yes, it can be cool to be fashionably late. But it's probably not $10 billion cool.

5. Americans spend over $42 billion at dollar stores.

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If anything, this puts the whole "What if everyone just gave a dollar to help out?" argument in perspective.

Obviously, it's not the same to compare what Americans spent at dollar stores to what governments spend on nutrition programs in developing countries.

But it does help paint a clear picture of how much progress we can make in the world with relatively small amounts of funding.

Image via iStock.

Americans think we spend an average of 26% of our U.S. budget on foreign assistance. But that number is actually less than 1%.

People have varying thoughts on the United States' role in foreign aid, but many times it's because they overestimate what we're actually contributing. When you think about it, investments in nutrition are so minimal, it's almost mind-boggling. Only about 1% percent of the U.S. budget goes to global programs that save lives (and the same is true for many countries). And these programs eventually actually save money because of increased global productivity and fewer health care costs.

Even spending less than 1% of our nearly $4 trillion federal budget, we've done so much good.

We've helped over 8 million people receive life-saving HIV treatment, reached 1 billion people with agricultural programs in the past 20 years, reduced death caused by malaria in children by 51% and reduced maternal mortality by over 50% worldwide. That all helps to keep the world healthier and our country safer. And those figures barely even scrape the surface of our progress.

Imagine if the U.S. stepped up to prioritize nutrition and invested just a little bit more. Our future could look a whole lot different.


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