UK cuts in overseas aid budget could lead to thousands of child deaths
Some of the most deprived countries in the world, may see their populations of men, women and vulnerable children pushed to the edge, many of them dying of malnutrition due to cuts in the UK Foreign Aid budget, according to an internal Foreign Office assessment report published Wednesday 2nd August.
The report resulted in an outcry from NGOs working in conflict zones and within countries suffering from impacts of climate change or natural disasters.
The CEO of Save The Children UK, Gwen Hines, immediately responded to the report by saying:
‘The UK’s aid cuts are a death sentence for children already living in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, today’s impact assessment confirms…It is reprehensible that ministers decided to reduce the aid budget - and hollow it out by spending vast amounts of Official Development Assistance in the UK - even though they knew it would cost children's lives…These cuts fly in the face of the government’s commitments to ‘leave no one behind’. We urge them to restore the UK's aid budget to 0.7% of GNI.’
Cuts imposed under Boris Johnson's government in 2021 saw dramatic reductions in overseas aid
Last November (2022), as the government announced cuts of £800 million to its overseas aid budget, Oxfam’s Head of Policy and Advocacy, Katy Chakrabortty warned that the systemic reduction over the last several years in overseas aid will undoubtedly result in the deaths of thousands due to starvation. In 2021, the then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that the overseas aid budget would be reduced from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%. The Chancellor at that time, Rishi Sunak, promised to restore the original commitment once ‘the fiscal situation’ permitted. Oxfam’s Katy Chakrabortty responded by saying:
‘The decision to cut £800 million from the UK’s overseas aid budget is both shortsighted and immoral. Food crises, conflict and climate change are forcing millions of people to flee their homes. In East Africa, Yemen and elsewhere, many more are facing the very real threat of starvation. UK aid is already barely a third of the amount given just three years ago. Instead of cutting vital lifelines the Government should be raising additional resources to strengthen them.’
Responding to this week’s Foreign Office Report, she said:
‘It isn’t news to aid agencies that lives are being lost because of aid cuts. However, it is astonishing to see the information available to ministers and those that are making decisions about spending…People there have been dying due to a lack of food and it’s a slow onset crisis that has never really reached the top of the agenda. The UK government has tried to give what it could but it has no emergency reserves to dip into'
The announcement this week, factors in the governments decision to deploy significant spending on providing aid to assist Ukrainian refugees since the outbreak of hostilities which began in February 2022. More critically, the decision to deduct the cost of providing for UK based refugees and asylum seekers from the overseas budget, according to an Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) report published in March this year, will reduce monies spent on overseas aid by one third.
'Critical support to tackle malnutrition will not be delivered in South Sudan ...could lead to the deaths of 3,000 children'
The UK Parliamentary International Development Committee, recently published its own analysis which underlined the harsh implications of the aid cuts and recognised the likelihood of the cuts having a significant human toll. Reflecting on the latest ICAI report, the Chair of the committee, Sarah Champion (Labour) MP, said:
‘Evidence submitted to the committee over the past few years told us the cuts to the UK overseas aid would take a human toll. But this astonishingly honest assessment of the real impact makes grim reading. It is a litany of the people – living in poverty, suffering hunger, women, girls, disabled people – who will no longer be supported by the UK’s direct aid spending, and the consequences they will face…critical support to tackle malnutrition will not be delivered in South Sudan, which the report says could lead to the deaths of 3,000 children’
The report provided clear forensic analysis of the direct cut implications across the range of needs in different regions of the globe:
· Bangladesh will see its aid budget slashed by half – a reduction of £43 million
· Ethiopia’s budget will be reduced by 29% - a reduction of £37 million
· Myanmar’s budget spend will be cut by 47% - a reduction of £27 million
· Afghanistan’s budget cuts were initially scheduled to see cuts of 76%, but these were revised and eventually amounted to a total of 59% - a reduction of £150 million.
Groups such as the Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh who have fled persecution in Myanmar will be directly effected
These cuts will directly impact on support to vulnerable groups such as the Rohingya refugees and other religious minorities, which have been forced to flee from persecution. Additionally, funding for more widespread aid packages such as the ‘Education programme for Girls’, has been cut by 54% - a reduction of £55 million. Budgets related to the climate change crisis have not been spared, projects connected to restoring forests and the adaptation, nature and resilience projects have all seen their budgets cut by half.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, issued a statement Wednesday, which promised that the overseas aid budget spend will increase next year to £8.3 billion. The statement said:
‘UK aid spending is due to increase to £8.3bn next year, and will be focused on programmes addressing humanitarian crises, protecting women and girls and supporting the world’s most vulnerable, while delivering value for money for taxpayers…While the budget for low-income countries has had to be reduced in the short term to achieve our savings target, it is due to nearly double for these countries the year after, including Africa where aid will rise from £646 to £1,364 billion’