LONDON: Some of the world’s poorest countries, including Yemen and Afghanistan, could face devastating food shortages as well as the closure of health and education facilities due to planned cuts in the UK United in foreign aid spending, charities have warned.
Ahead of a potential vote in the House of Commons on Monday that will decide the fate of aid changes, including a spending cut from 0.7% of national income to 0.5%, a coalition of leading charities such that Oxfam and ActionAid UK warned in a letter that the cuts could have a “devastating” effect on Britain’s international credibility.
Last year, the top five recipients of British foreign aid were Pakistan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen and Nigeria.
Save the Children, WWF UK and Cafod also signed the letter, which included more than 1,700 academics, charities and business leaders, warning that aid cuts have already led to the closure of food centers and health clinics in poor countries.
Water sanitation and health training programs have also been affected, charities said.
“While other G7 countries have increased their aid budgets, the UK is the only one to back away from its commitments,” the letter added, warning that cuts planned amid the pandemic would represent a ” double whammy for the world’s poorest communities. “
A senior UN diplomat also warned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the proposal to cut foreign aid “tarnishes confidence in Britain’s reliability at a crucial time.”
Mark Lowcock, former permanent secretary at the Department for International Development, added that Johnson’s oversight of the policy change revealed “a failure of kindness and empathy.”
He told The Observer newspaper: “At this moment, I am particularly alarmed by a famine which is now affecting hundreds of thousands of people in Ethiopia, the biggest famine problem the world has seen in 10 years. Last year, the UK reported to the UN for providing $ 108 million in humanitarian aid to Ethiopia. This year, they’ve made $ 6 million so far.
He added, “It’s very corrosive to trust, trust and your reputation, as well as your relationships with people who matter to your own interests and prosperity. All other countries face the same economic problems. But no one else in the G7 reacts that way.
Opposition groups and figures demand an immediate reversal of the planned cuts.
Some former Conservative senior ministers have also criticized the proposal.
Former Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: “The Prime Minister’s personal aid priority is girls’ education. But girls’ education has been cut by 25 percent, while UNICEF, the United Nations children’s fund, has suffered a 60 percent cut. It just doesn’t make sense. You only have one chance in childhood.
Caroline Nokes, former immigration minister, said: “UK aid cuts are only 1% of what the Chancellor is borrowing this year. But they mean funding for the UN’s reproductive health program has been cut by 85 percent.
“The UN says this aid would have prevented an estimated 250,000 maternal and child deaths. It is literally a matter of life and death, ”she added.
The Church of England has also warned that the cuts could have immediate consequences for war-torn Yemen.
Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, said: “Has anyone defended the cuts in Yemen? Defending girls’ education is empty talk when action denies honest intention. It is a shameful denial of a promise, a denial of compassionate justice and a hasty recourse. “
The charity coalition said there was “no justifiable economic need” for the cuts, which the government says will save nearly £ 4bn ($ 5.66bn) per year.
However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, a proponent of the aid changes, said: “The decisions the government has made on this are very reasonable. We are facing a unique economic disruption in 300 years.