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Swingeing cuts to international aid revealed

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African countries are set to see the amount they receive from Westminster slashed - and a global family planning programme will lose out as well

Swingeing cuts to international aid have been revealed.  

UK aid to individual African countries is being cut by 66% this year and aid to the Indo-Pacific region by 68%, aid agencies have said on the basis of new figures provided by the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab.

And the UK government has been accused of going back on its promises by cutting 85% of aid funding pledged to the United Nations global family planning programme.

The UN Population Fund says the UK had pledged £154m for its projects but now says it will get around £23m this year.

The UK Government said Covid-19 meant tough but necessary decisions were needed. It announced last year it would cut UK aid spending from 0.7% of national income to 0.5% - which amounts to a reduction of more than £4bn. It has yet to confirm which programmes will be affected.

The UN Population Fund - known as UNFPA - said the UK decision would be "devastating for women and girls and their families across the world".

UNFPA executive director Dr Natalia Kanem said it "deeply regrets the decision of our longstanding partner and advocate to step away from its commitments at a time when inequalities are deepening and international solidarity is needed more than ever".

She estimated the £130m lost would have helped prevent about 250,000 maternal and child deaths, 14.6 million unintended pregnancies and 4.3 million unsafe abortions.

MSI Reproductive Choices, an organisation that provides contraception and safe abortion services around the world, is set to be affected by the cuts. In 2020 it received an estimated $8.5m (£6m) worth of commodities from the UNFPA.

"Over the last 10 years, we have seen the difference that the UK's leadership on this issue has made to millions of women around the world. The cuts will do untold harm to the progress made on preventing women dying from pregnancy related causes and jeopardise the government's commitments on girls' education and increasing resilience to the climate crisis," chief executive Simon Cooke said.

Raab revealed at a Lords select committee on Tuesday that UK bilateral aid to specific African countries would be £764m this year, a figure confirmed by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on Wednesday.

The clearest comparable figure for 2020 was £2.22bn, aid agencies said, and in 2019 it was £2.44bn.

Raab has said half of the £764m will go to east Africa, meaning other parts of Africa face cuts of well over 50%. Bilateral aid to the Indo-Pacific region will fall to £500m, a cut of 68% on the previous year.

Water Aid chief executive Tim Wainwright criticised the cuts. He said: “It will cause the pandemic to spread and make the chances of mutation higher because more people will have it. It will undermine the efforts to prevent future pandemics.”

An FCDO spokesperson said: "The UK is a world leader on international development. In 2020 we were the third biggest aid donor globally, spending £14.5bn.

"The seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on aid. We will still spend more than £10bn this year to fight poverty, tackle climate change and improve global health.

"We are working through what this means for individual programmes. Decisions will be announced in due course."



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