The Government’s announcement of significant cuts to overseas development aid is a severe blow to the world’s most marginalised communities already unable to access essential health care around the world. As a network of organisations dedicated to improving health and wellbeing in many of the world’s most vulnerable communities, we are deeply concerned at the size and long-term impacts of the cuts.
As the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates health inequalities, overwhelms health systems and slows the fight against a myriad of other health issues, now is the time for the UK to demonstrate its global leadership and build on its historic commitments to health – not step away.
Whilst other G7 nations increase their spending in response to the global pandemic, these cuts of up to 40% to health spending since 2019 are completely at odds with the UK’s G7 Presidency ambitions to create a safer, healthier world.*
The lack of transparency and detail around the cuts, particularly the split between the UK’s funding to the global COVID-19 response and broader global health objectives, also leaves hugely important questions unanswered.
These significant cuts will cause deep rollbacks in the decades-won progress towards improving health globally – resulting in many more marginalised people unable to access the health care they need for years to come.
*In 2019, the UK spent more than £2.2 billion on ODA to health. See combined health totals from Table A7 (bilateral aid by sector) and Table A9 (imputed multilateral share by sector) at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statistics-on-international-development-final-uk-aid-spend-2019. In his recent statement, the Foreign Secretary indicated only £1,305 million had been allocated to ‘COVID and global health’ in 2021/22: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2021-04-21/hcws935. However, we should note that this figure does not include the health ODA spent by other government departments outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (data not yet available).