DFID tents being loaded up at a warehouse in Dubai that will be distributed to Erbil, Iraq. Photo by: David Quinn / DFID / CC BY

On Nov. 25, 2020, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the government would no longer be spending 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance, despite a legal commitment binding the government to the target.

The cut to the aid budget has left a £4.5 billion (over $6.3 billion) black hole in the budget compared to 2019, leading to numerous program closures in 2021, including in key areas like health and humanitarian work.

Here, Devex tracks the impact of the U.K. aid cuts. (Additions that need verifying may not appear in real time).

June 15 — David Davis, one of the Conservative members of Parliament rebelling over the aid cuts, tells the House of Commons that “impeccable sources” informed him that the government planned to cut aid to Ethiopia by £58 million, or “more than half.”

June 15 — U.K. aid cuts of £6.1 million hit existing or agreed conflict prevention and peace-building projects in Myanmar, Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, and Somalia, according to a joint statement from Conciliation Resources, International Alert, and Saferworld.

June 14 — The U.K. cancels support for the far-reaching Strategic Partnership Arrangement with Bangladesh, the NGO BRAC says. According to the group, the decision means the U.K. will no longer provide an education for 360,000 girls, school places for 725,000 children, nutritional support for 12 million infants, access to family planning services for 14.6 million women and girls, skills training and assets for 385,000 families in extreme poverty, or climate interventions for 2 million households.

June 3 — The Malawi Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention and Response Programme has been canceled, according to a source working at one of the implementing organizations.

May 26 — The Support to Adolescent Girls Empowerment in Sierra Leone program suffers a “significant budget reduction” as a result of the aid cuts, according to Annie Murthi, head of finance at implementing NGO Purposeful. The full reduction is still being decided.

May 26 — Humanitarian research group Elrha reports a 65% cut in Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office funding for its Humanitarian Innovation Fund and an unspecified funding reduction for its Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises project.

May 25 — In the first public revelation of a UK Aid Match program being affected by the cuts, War Child has announced that it will not be paid £500,000 promised by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office until April 2022. The NGO was due to receive the money in July of this year.

May 24 — A project on male engagement in child health and nutrition in Kenya has been cut by about 50% for 2021-22, according to Women and Children First. The total project budget was £186,068, but a spokesperson for the charity says exact details on the size of the cut are unavailable. “More children will be malnourished and starving” as a result, says CEO Mikey Rosato.

May 20 — The U.K. Embassy in Indonesia announces the closure of the Green Economic Growth for Papua program, which helped prevent deforestation.

May 19 — The U.K. donates 42% less to the Rohingya crisis response, donating just £27.6 million to the Joint Response Plan. The U.K. gave £117 million in 2019.

May 19 — NGO Amref reports ”significant” cuts to its health programs in Africa. Amref knows some programs will have to be cut or canceled by 80%, but don’t have clarity from FCDO which.

May 18 — The Impact Programme, focused on impact investing in Africa, has been cut by at least 75%, sources tell Devex.

May 10 — A £13 million project providing health care services in remote areas of Bangladesh is entirely canceled “with immediate effect,” according to Concern Worldwide (UK). The cut means the project cannot respond to an emerging outbreak of diarrheal disease, so "it is likely that this decision to cut funding will result in preventable deaths," according to the charity.

May 6 — Active female empowerment projects in Nigeria and Afghanistan are to be closed, according to Women for Women International. “In 20 years of working for NGOs in Nigeria, I have never encountered a situation like this, where a funder commits to multi-year funding and then reneges on their promise part-way through,” says Bukola Onyishi, Women for Women International-Nigeria country director. Read more from Onyishi about the cuts here.

May 6 — FCDO cuts 50% of funding to Bond, the network for U.K. NGOs.

May 5 — The government could slash nutrition spending by 79%, according to a Save the Children analysis endorsed by major nutrition focused NGOs.

May 4 — King’s College London announces “swingeing cuts” to the Saving Lives program in Sierra Leone, which enabled the country’s ambulance and referral service, according to Laura Hucks, director of King's Global Health Partnerships. She writes: “Those who suffered most were the women and children requiring emergency care. There is no question that there were fatalities as a result.” A project to improve care for 15,000 pregnant women and their babies has been canceled, as is a project to install solar power in operating theaters in Democratice Republic of Congo.

May 4 — The Mines Advisory Group announces its funding will be cut by nearly 50%. Programs in the Middle East are especially hard hit, with all funding withdrawn from Lebanon.

May 1 — UNICEF announces the government will cut its core funding by 60%.

May 1 United Nations Development Program Assistant Secretary General Ulrika Modeer tells Sky News she knew of cuts of around 60% to the agency’s central budget, down to £22 million from £55 million.

“The funds lost could have helped 1.2 million people to have better access to basic services; 350,000 people in crisis-affected countries to get a job or better livelihood; 280,000 people to gain access to justice; and 23 million hectares of land and marine habitats be protected, improved or restored,” according to a statement. UNDP’s country offices are expecting further cuts to program budgets.

April 30 — The U.K. government cancels several funds focused on the work of smaller organizations. A trustee of the Small International Development Charities Network says “the government has wiped out support for small charities.”

The canceled funds are:
• Small Charities Challenge Fund (including a program educating child laborers in Bangladesh, another set to educate homeless girls in Uganda, and a program to educate children with special needs in Tanzania, and plans to set up a helpline for carers of disabled children in Nepal and build a A&E department in a rural Zanzibar hospital).
• Community Partnerships grant.
• U.K. Aid Connect.
• U.K. Aid Direct Impact, with active programs given 90 days to close, including a pre-primary education program in Tanzania run by Children in Crossfire, education projects in Nepal and Democratic Republic of Congo run by Street Child, agricultural development projects in Ghana, Uganda, and Ethiopia, and training young refugees in Uganda.

A Twitter thread documenting further closures has been published by the SIDCN.

April 30 — FCDO cancels £12 million conflict resolution projects in Nigeria, Myanmar, and Central African Republic, according to Conciliation Resources.

April 29 — Funding to UNAIDS cut by 83%, from £15 million to £2.5 million.

April 29 — Funding to neglected tropical diseases hit by a 90% cut amounting to £150 million.

April 28 — Funding to the United Nations Population Fund supplies program cut by 85%, from an agreed £154 million to £23 million. Family planning services around the world are dependent on the low-cost commodities the program supplied.

April 28 — Government officials estimate bilateral funding for water, sanitation, and hygiene programs will be cut by 80% on the £176 million spent in 2019, according to a leaked document. A 64% cut on WASH spending overall (including multilateral spending) is also predicted.

April 28 — U.K. aid to African countries is expected to be cut by around 66%, according to NGO analysis, The Guardian reports.

April 28 — The Tropical Health and Education Trust cancels UK Aid Direct Impact projects — worth £3 million — in Somalia, the breakaway region of Somaliland, and Uganda as a result of the cuts.

April 27 — Funding to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative cut by 95%, from £100 million to £5 million.

April 27 — The heavily aid-reliant South Sudanese government receives a letter from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office announcing aid cuts without giving full details of what is affected, according to Sky News.

An unnamed NGO leader later estimates U.K. aid to South Sudan has been reduced by 55% in total. Emergency food aid sees a 30% cut, and the Health Pooled Fund budget — which supports primary care — loses £6.9 million. The £120 million Humanitarian Assistance and Resilience in South Sudan program is also “indefinitely delayed.”

A £460,000 teacher training program run by Windle Trust is also reportedly canceled, and other programs likely are too — but the British Embassy warns NGOs against “any interaction with the media,” according to Sky News, despite the government previously saying aid workers are free to speak out against the aid cuts.

April 26 — The Tropical Health and Education Trust cancels the £7 million UK Health Partnership Fund in Myanmar as a result of the cuts.

April 23 — Aid funding for education cut by more than 40%, according to an analysis by the Center for Global Development think tank.

April 23 — Funding totaling £27.5 million is cut from the UK Partnerships for Health Systems program, according to the Tropical Health and Education Trust. Founded by THET and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the program would have seen National Health Service staffers train 78,000 health workers in lower-income countries, and it has already helped train 100,000 such workers in the last decade.

THET says the cut includes £5 million for a nurse and midwife training program in which NHS staffers provide instruction on trauma and critical care, community mental health, and neonatal clinical care in South Asia and Africa.

April 23 — The FCDO’s written statement stated that certain Civil Society programmes would be protected as part of their commitment to open societies and conflict resolution. However, the Volunteering for Development grant, awarded to VSO, was cut from £16m to £9m over a 12 month period. The cuts will force the organisation to drastically reduce programmes, which will mean that VSO’s work on Covid-19 will cease entirely in 10 of the 18 countries where they are operational.

April 15 — Cancellation of the Oxford Policy Fellowship, which placed legal advisors in long term roles with the governments of low-income countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

April 13 Saferworld, a peace-building organization, announces cuts to its work in Myanmar.

April 9 — Funding to the Royal Society cut by 67%, from £25.1 million to £8.1 million.

Programs affected:
• Future Leaders – African Independent Research fellowships. Only 30 of 90 fellows, working on issues including global health and climate change, will be funded for another year and previous cohorts will not have funding renewed.
• A letter from Royal Society president, Sir Adrian Smith, to politicians, said: “Medical research charities … are projecting a shortfall in research spend of between £252 and £368 million in 2020-21 alone. Alongside other pressures on the R&D system, without urgent intervention, many critical research programmes and jobs are at risk.”

April 7 — The HALO Trust ends demining work in Syria.

April 1 — Funding for the human rights, democracy, and rules-based international system program is halved, from £17.66 million in 2019-2020 to £8.5 million in 2020-2021. The government says the cut was made before the 0.7% cut to prioritize COVID-19 response.

March 30 — The U.K. cuts its assistance to Syria by 32% at an international pledging conference, pledging just £205 million to the war ravaged country. Compared to 2019, when the country donated £400 million, the amount represents a cut of nearly half over two years.

Programs affected:
• Syria Resilience Programme led by CARE UK, which has been cut by 70% since 2019. According to the NGO the cut means less than 100,000 people will be helped by the program, down from 550,000.

• A program providing access to legal services for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, led by IRC.

March 19 International Planned Parenthood Federation Director General Dr. Alvaro Bermejo tells Devex cuts to the orgnization’s services could mean 7.5 million additional unintended pregnancies, 2.7 million unsafe abortions, and 22,000 maternal deaths worldwide over the next year.

March 17 — Aid to 10 U.K. Space Agency projects run under the International Partnership Programme are canceled, according to the BBC. The projects included one which used satellite data to map mosquito breeding areas and another which studied vulnerability to flooding.

March 11 — U.K. Research and Innovation, a public body, announces its aid budget allocation had been reduced by nearly half, to £125 million in 2021, leaving a £120 million gap. That makes it “unavoidable that some grants will need to be terminated.” UKRI ran the Global Challenges Research Fund, which was focused on addressing the sustainable development goals in lower income countries.

Programs affected:
• Research and development into technology to purify dirty water. (The Guardian)
• Mapping natural disaster risk in lower income communities. (The Guardian)
• Research and development for infectious disease diagnostics. (Independent)
• A refugee integration project run by Professor Alison Phipps. (Devex interview)
• Reducing homicide in Latin America. (The Guardian)
• Migration for Development and Equality.
• Economic development via agriculture in Colombia.
• Peace building in Kosovo.
• Supporting universities in Fiji, Kenya, Mozambique, and Brazil to research climate change responses. (Climate Home)
• COVID-19 genomics research. (The Guardian)
• Education Justice and Memory Network, whose funding was cut by £308,000 — around a third — for 2021-22, according to principal investigator Julia Paulson.
• One Health Poultry Hub — a project surveilling livestock for health risks — whose funding was cut by 70%. (The Guardian)

• The ARISE consortium, focused on health inequalities for marginalized populations in low- and middle-income countries, was hit by a 68% amounting to £1.9 million.

March 8 — The International Rescue Committee announces 60% cuts to a program in Sierra Leone that reached 3 million people with family planning outreach and sensitization. A planned program in Lebanon, aimed at providing protection services to 107,000 people was also canceled before it could begin.

March 6 — The Open Democracy website reports that a leaked FCDO document shows officials are discussing deep cuts to numerous fragile and poverty stricken states. According to the website, officials were mulling 63% cuts to Libya, 60% cuts to Somalia and DRC, 58% cuts to Nigeria, 90% cuts to the Sahel region (from £340 million to £23 million), and 59% cuts to South Sudan.

March 1 — STiR Education, which helps build schooling systems, is told that its contract with FCDO would be canceled, at a cost of £828,000. The group’s CEO, Giresh Menon, said FCDO officials told him not to discuss the cut in public.

March 1 — The U.K. reduces its funding to Yemen — dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis — by nearly 60%, pledging £87 million at a donor conference, down from £214 million total donations to Yemen the previous year.

Feb. 28, 2021 — Voluntary Service Overseas have been forced to close their international volunteer program, the International Citizen Service, worth £15.3 million annually. The program has enabled over 40,000 volunteers to work in 32 countries over the past decade, according to VSO. The FCDO cited coronavirus-related overseas travel restrictions as the reason for closing the program, but there are no known plans to restart once travel opens up.

Sept. 1, 2020 — In the first reported casualty of the U.K. aid cuts, a £12.5 million girls’ education program called Investing In Adolescent Girls in Rwanda is canceled by the government.

This article was last updated on 15 June 2021

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process. He can be reached at william.worley@devex.com.