Today, the one-year Spending Review saw the Chancellor announce that the proportion the UK spends on aid will decrease from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5%.
It is devastating that the UK Government is making a U-turn on it’s critical manifesto commitment to 0.7%. This budget is essential in ensuring the UK Government can work in unity with other countries to fulfil the universal human right to health. This commitment should be sustained throughout crises, and especially during a global pandemic.
COVID-19 is teaching us the importance of global responses to global health challenges, as outlined by the Prime Minister in his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly. This can only be achieved by countries working shoulder to shoulder to make sure everyone gets the support they need. Today’s announcement signals that the UK Government is no longer committed to this approach and is unwilling to play its part.
Lots of questions now remain about how this reduction will impact more than half of the world’s population still without access to essential, quality health services, or whose health needs are being neglected due to the COVID-19 pandemic response. It also raises questions about how these cuts will impact the UK Government’s ability to deliver their other manifesto commitments, including to ‘end the preventable deaths of mothers, newborns and children’ and ‘leading the way in eradicating Ebola and malaria’.
Others have also shared their concerns about what the cuts mean for the future of global health:
“I will not be supporting measures to cut our aid budget outlined in today’s spending review, as I believe it will be very damaging to the poorest people in the world. In a time of a global health crisis, UK aid has never been so important, and I will carry on arguing the case against going back on our promise of 0.7.” – Andrew Mitchell, MP, Member of the APPG on Malaria and NTDs.
“It is deeply concerning that promises haven’t been kept on the 0.7%. To recover from the immense secondary impacts of COVID-19 on other health issues and protect the billions without access to basic health services, it is crucial that funding for global health and development is sustained.” – Lord Crisp, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health and independent crossbench member of the House of Lords.
“If the overall contribution on aid is to be cut, the absolute amount which has supported efforts to improve the health of the most disadvantaged populations globally must be a priority to be maintained. That is not only the right humanitarian thing to do, but it also benefits the target populations most by helping them to help themselves and will ultimately benefit the UK the most.” – Lord Trees of the Ross, Crossbench Peer, House of Lords.
“I was deeply disturbed and saddened to hear of the Governments plans to cut aid at a time when global health should be a priority for everyone. These cuts will affect the poorest people in the world, and I hope the Government will reflect on criticism from across the political spectrum and rethink this proposal.” – Baroness Hayman, Vice-Chair of the APPG on Malaria and NTDs.
“Unicef UK urges the Foreign Secretary to urgently confirm that this cut is time-bound to 2021, outline exactly how and when 0.7% will be reinstated and uphold the Govt’s commitment to the world’s children as they face the biggest global crisis since the Second World War.” – Joanna Rea, Director of Advocacy, Unicef.
“As an organisation that has partnered with the UK Government to tackle neglected tropical diseases, we have seen the huge impact that UK Aid can make on global health. I would like to call on the UK Government to sustain its support to global health and avoid stepping away from global aid commitments.” Wendy Harrison, CEO, SCI Foundation.
“Global efforts that improve lives benefit all of us. UK government has played an important role in helping to tackle meningitis epidemics and continues to support the development of new vaccines. Defeating infectious diseases is a global concern and we ask the government to maintain its commitments to global aid.” – Vinny Smith, Chief Executive, Meningitis Research Foundation.
“The UK government’s decision to cut aid during a global pandemic is reprehensible. It turns our country’s back on a moral duty to right historical wrongs and tackle poverty, poor health and inequality worldwide today. It will affect millions of people’s lives.” – Jessica Hamer, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Health Poverty Action.
“We are deeply concerned by the government’s reversal of it’s manifesto commitment to maintain the 0.7% commitment and the impact that it will have on the health of some of the most vulnerable communities globally. The UK has a duty to support the poorest all over the world, especially in the middle of a global crisis, and the cut to aid is not at all justified” – Chaitra Dinesh, Director, Students for Global Health