The tragic loss of life from the earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean now exceeds 100,000 and may eventually double that, due to disease, civil unrest, and other factors. In response, the United States and other nations have pledged millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to aid the survivors and assist affected nations in recovering from the disaster. Unfortunately, some in the international aid business cannot seem to shake their reflexive criticism of America despite ample evidence of its generosity.
The U.S. government initially announced that it would provide $15 million in humanitarian aid and send experts to help affected nations recover. Jan Egeland, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, criticized the U.S. commitment as "stingy" despite the fact that the U.S. pledge far exceeded those of all European nations. He quickly apologized and said that he did not mean to single out the United States, but the transcript of his comments clearly identifies the U.S. as the primary target.
Mr. Egelund's criticism was based on his belief that America is not providing enough development assistance-specifically, aid as a percentage of its gross national income (GNI). According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. is dead last in aid as a percent of GNI at 0.15 percent. Mr. Egelund's native country of Norway has a ratio of 0.92 percent. There are several problems with this approach:
The United States is the world's largest source of humanitarian aid. By nature, humanitarian aid must be tailored to individual crises: Every single famine, earthquake, flood, or other disaster is unique and requires different types of aid and different strategies. As death tolls climbed in the wake of the disaster in Southeast Asia and the needs of the survivors became clearer, the United States upped its humanitarian aid commitments to the region to $35 million, and expectations are that total U.S. contributions will continue to increase.
Criticisms of America's generosity, such as those made by Egeland, fly in the face of reality. International aid experts do their organizations no credit to criticize American largess-especially since following through on their good intentions would be impossible without it.
Brett D. Schaefer is the Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs in the Center for International Trade and Economics at The Heritage Foundation.
 Data from the most recent year available. Statistical Annex of the 2004 Development Co-operation Report, Table 1, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/52/9/1893143.xls.
 Foreign Aid and the National Interest: Promoting Freedom, Security, and Opportunity, "Overview," U.S. Agency for International Development, p. 27.
 Brett D. Schaefer, "Multilateral Economic Development Efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa," Heritage Lecture #858, December 20, 2004, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/TradeandForeignAid/hl858.cfm.
World Bank, World Bank Development Indicators.
 Data from the most recent year available. Statistical Annex of the 2004 Development Co-operation Report, Table 13, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/52/9/1893143.xls.
 "International Organizations and Conferences," Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2005-Appendix, The Office of Management and Budget, p. 749,
/static/reportimages/5EDC8E0FDB4FCD9F22D1F24C189294EA.pdf and "Funding WFP," United Nations World Food Programme, at http://www.wfp.org/index.asp?section=3;