Huge backlash from the international aid sector
Lives will be lost as a result of the UK government cutting the international aid budget, leading charities have warned.
Yesterday the UK government won a Commons vote for spending cuts on overseas aid, despite a rebellion by Tory MPs.
MPs voted by a majority of 35 to keep the budget for international development at 0.5% of national income.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said the cut was needed to keep public debt down during the pandemic.
The government has faced criticism over the reduction - which amounts to almost £4 billion - including from all the UK's living former prime ministers.
Neil Heslop, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), said: “It is no exaggeration to say that this decision by parliament will devastate international development charities all around the world and the end result is that lives will be lost as a direct consequence.
“The UK has a proud history as a world leader in international development and to turn our back on that legacy is an historic mistake. Valuable, life-changing programmes, built up over years with the support of UK taxpayers, now risk collapse and any vision of a global Britain has been placed in jeopardy."
Penelope Blackwell, director of public engagement at the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), said: “The UK government’s decision to abandon its legal obligations on international aid is a tragic blow to those living in the world’s poorest countries. It comes just as a new UN report revealed the number of people without enough food to eat rose during the Covid-19 pandemic to include almost a third of the world.
“In the context of such clear human suffering, the UK government needs to re-evaluate its decision to slash the international aid budget. Cutting aid by billions of pounds risks destabilising many areas of conflict where humanitarian relief is necessary. We have a moral duty to help those who need it.”
Stephanie Draper, CEO of Bond, the UK network of organisations working in international development, accused MPs of breaking a promise to the electorate to address global challenges and have turned their backs on those in need.
“It means that children can no longer go to school, vaccines are left to expire and marginalised communities are left to face hunger, malnutrition and disease," she said.
"The aid budget is already linked to economic performance and therefore affordable. These additional measures are unnecessary and draconian. They are a death-knell for the government’s ‘Global Britain’ agenda and leadership in international development.
"This was a political choice, not an economic one, which will do little other than hurt the world’s most marginalised women, men and children, and damage Britain’s reputation in the world.”
Oxfam GB chief executive Danny Sriskandarajah described the vote as "a disaster for the world's poorest people".
And Daniel Willis, of the campaign group Global Justice Now, said: "When the inevitable death and suffering from aid cuts hits the news, each and every MP who has voted to sever the UK's 0.7% commitment should know that blood is on their hands."