Why Foreign Aid Is Worth Fighting For

Recently GOP frontrunner Donald Trump suggested the United States should stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us. He has called development investments in Afghanistan wasteful, suggesting that the funds should instead be used to rebuild our own country.

It would serve Mr. Trump well to leave the golden cage of Trump Tower and get into the villages of the countries he refers to. Over the last few years, I have had the honor of spending time with communities in Bangladesh, Kenya and Uganda with organizations like Every Mother Counts, among others. Based on those firsthand experiences, I can tell you that Mr. Trump doesn't have a clue how to manage our humanitarian aid or why we offer it. That is a dangerous proposition for America as well as for the world.

julie smolyansky

Our assistance in the world isn't just about our humanitarian instincts. It's about recognizing that it is in our national interest to engage the world and manage disasters before they overwhelm the global community. Leading globally even in countries where we face challenges offers much- needed infrastructure and intelligence. It can also prevent or reduce deadly viral epidemics.

East Africa is one example. We have seen frightening diseases like HIV/AIDS, Ebola, West Nile and Zika emerge from the Congo Basin between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The more we can help these nations address the threat, the better we all are. As we help to provide the knowledge, create the infrastructure and provide leadership, we save lives, create a new narrative of the future, and make a difference that matters for our own security as well.

In Uganda alone, the work of the Centers for Disease Control team working under the leadership of our ambassador has helped nip Ebola outbreaks in the bud. The team has done incredible research that informs our own understanding of these diseases, strengthens our ability to protect own citizens, and hopefully keeps the next medical crisis from becoming a global catastrophe.

As much as some may want to crawl into a cocoon, the challenges of today's world do not allow us that option. Is it a waste of money to educate boys and girls in Afghanistan? To give children a nutritional head start in life? To fight illness and disease in order to build healthier societies?

Every dollar spent on each of those efforts is an investment in our future. When we equip youth with education, job possibilities, and a reason to feel optimistic about their future, we create more stable communities where fewer people will become radicalized or turn to terrorism. When girls are empowered in these communities, they reinvest in their families and communities and support peacekeeping missions.

We have a choice. We can take a leadership role by sharing knowledge, skills and expertise that will help to build stronger and healthier societies. Or we can turn our back and allow the people in those societies to sink deeper into the despair and hopelessness that will breed the next generation of extremists, creating a more unstable, threatening and dangerous world for us all.

Those of us who support the first alternative believe it offers an exciting opportunity to unite a global community irrespective of labels. Hillary Clinton has called for expanding the definition of American interests to go beyond protecting American lives and dollars to include women's and human rights, environmental protection, and preventing the spread of deadly diseases. That's a future I want to invest in. And that's one reason my vote is going to Hillary in November.

Julie Smolyansky is President & CEO of Lifeway Foods.