UK aid cuts will deny millions of water and vaccines, NGOs say

Action Against Hunger delivers hygiene kits to refugees in Iraq as part of a program funded by U.K. aid. Photo by: Florian Seriex / ACF International / CC BY

LONDON — Millions will lose out on access to education, clean water, and vaccines as a result of U.K. aid cuts, according to preliminary estimates by development advocates.

Around 7.6 million women and girls per year will also be unable to access modern methods of family planning, the Campaign to Defend Aid and Development predicted.

The U.K. has long been a leader in funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights, spending $808 million on the issue in 2018, according to a report published Thursday. But there has been little mention of it recently by U.K. government ministers, and it was not included as a focus area of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s new development strategy.

A lack of information from FCDO about where the cuts will fall led campaigners to make the estimate based on a 30% cut across the board on the results of U.K. development spending in recent years. That is because the U.K. is expected to have 30% less to spend on aid next year compared with 2019.

UK cuts aid budget to 0.5% of GNI

The U.K. aid budget is expected to be around £10 billion ($13 million) next year.

In such a scenario, alongside the millions of women and girls unable to access modern family planning, the analysis found that 105,000 children are likely to die as a result of vaccine-preventable diseases and 5.6 million per year will not be immunized; 2 million people will lose humanitarian assistance; and 3.8 million will lose help accessing clean water and sanitation. Nearly 1 million children would also miss out on a good education.

The predictions are subject to change, depending on how FCDO decides to reduce funds. The department has so far not produced its own impact assessment of the cuts or clarified how they will be made, with campaigners accusing it of a lack of transparency.

A U.K. government spokesperson said: “The seismic impact of the [COVID-19] pandemic on the U.K. economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on aid. Difficult decisions will be necessary, and we will need to run a prioritization exercise. These measures will ensure that every pound we spend goes as far as possible and makes a world-leading difference.”

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.