Britain cuts humanitarian aid by 51% despite food crisis
Why now? Ministers in Britain have been accused of picking the "worst moment in history" to decrease the foreign assistance budget.
Ministers in Britain have been accused of picking the "worst moment in history" to decrease the foreign assistance budget, with preliminary numbers revealing that the UK's overseas humanitarian spending was cut by more than half last year.
MPs and relief advocates believe the assistance budget must be boosted immediately to deal with the Ukraine crisis and the prospect of hunger in Africa. Drought has caused extreme famine for up to 23 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.
The United Nations has warned that the Ukraine crisis might push 1.7 billion people – one-fifth of the world's population – into poverty, despair, and famine.
“It would be hard to consider a worse moment in history for the government to be cutting its foreign aid budget," said Sarah Champion MP, Labour head of the Commons international development committee.
“We are the only member of the rich country G7 grouping to be doing so. It is having a damaging effect on our international standing – and the survival chances of some of the poorest people on the planet."
Official development aid in the United Kingdom was almost £11.5 billion last year, compared to £14.48 billion in 2020, a 21% decrease.
Separate figures published in the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) annual report last year revealed that direct UK aid and planned aid to Ethiopia fell from £241 million in 2020/21 to £108 million in 2021/22, a 55% decrease; aid to Kenya fell from £67 million to £41 million, a 39% decrease; and aid to Somalia fell from £121 million to £71 million, a 41% decrease.
Yemen, which has been ravaged by a Saudi-led war for more than 7 years, is experiencing one of the world's most serious humanitarian catastrophes. Around 24 million individuals require assistance, including roughly 13 million children. UK aid to Yemen decreased by 63%, from £221 million in 2020/21 to £82 million in 2021/22.
Read more: 161,000 Yemenis to face famine in 2022
“The government is cutting aid at a time we have war in Ukraine, the Covid pandemic, and millions of people in Africa on the brink of starvation. It’s the most horrific timing. It’s also shortsighted because aid helps tackle global challenges, which helps the UK in the long term," said Sam Nadel, Oxfam's head of government relations.
Ministers have announced £220 million in humanitarian and development aid for Ukraine, putting additional strain on the UK aid budget.
According to Kate Munro, head of advocacy at the charity Action Against Hunger, assistance spending should return to 0.7% of GNP, and ministers should unveil a fresh aid package for the millions of people facing malnutrition in East Africa as soon as possible.
"It saves money to act early in a crisis,” she said.
This week, the organization will attend an event in parliament to advocate for increased help to East Africa. It is requesting that the government invest £750 million in the financing, comparable to what was done in 2017 when East Africa was similarly afflicted by drought and major starvation was avoided.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss revealed last week a new international development strategy, with aid aimed at assisting the UK in achieving its foreign policy objectives. Direct aid from the UK will receive more funding than foreign aid.
Champion called the new plan a "rehash of existing slogans" last week but praised its emphasis on women and girls. She warned that "aid for trade" policies were harmful because they may undermine the primary aim of foreign assistance, which is to help the poor and most vulnerable.
“Stepping up our life-saving humanitarian work to prevent the worst forms of human suffering around the world is one of the top goals given out by the foreign secretary in the UK's international development plan this week," stated the FCDO.
“We will prioritize humanitarian funding levels at £3bn over the next three years, to remain a global leader in crisis response, including in Africa."