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Updated July 11th, 2021 at 19:36 IST

Global philanthropists including Bill Gates pledge £94m to cover UK foreign aid cuts

UK slashing of the foreign funding cut by about a third has stalled “critical” projects or risked financial bilateral relations with aid receiving countries.

Reported by: Zaini Majeed
Bill Gates
IMAGE: AP/TWITTER/@ICAI_UK | Image:self
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Global philanthropists, including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on July 10 pledged £93.5m to help cover the shortfall in the UK government’s cuts to foreign aid in a major change during the pandemic after the merger of UK’s  Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). According to the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (Icai), the aid cuts were imposed without adequate transparency and were administered at a fast speed. As speculations arise that UK’s Foreign Office overtook the large aid budget in an attempt to impose its own rules on DFID, and weaken Icai, philanthropist organizations stepped forward to fill the holes, a Guardian report confirmed. 

Sources told the paper that the UK government’s slashing of the foreign funding cut by about a third has stalled “critical” projects or risked financial bilateral relations among the aid receivers and Britain. As several of the health projects had shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic, the consortium expressed regret about drugs going to waste. And hence, philanthropist organizations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations assumed self-funding for some of these integral projects threatened due to the recent cuts. 

The life-saving treatments are cost-effective investments, and if these go unfunded this year, British taxpayer generosity will be wasted as clinics are closed and essential drugs expire and are thrown away, Kate Hampton, the chief executive of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation was quoted as saying to Britain’s leading daily The Sunday Telegraph. Meanwhile, archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby stated that the reduced aid might cause unimaginable suffering and entirely preventable deaths, as he vouched for the government to restore the promised amount for the aid, adding that the emergency funding was “desperately needed” across nations reeling under the poverty in such dire times of the pandemic. 

UK's foreign aid reduced to 0.5 %, less than France

The UK, as compared to European nations such as Germany that allocates 0.73 percent of its national income to foreign aid, had been spending much lesser on foreign aid prior to the latest cuts. It has now slashed the spending to 0.5 percent, lower than France’s at 0.53 percent despite the aid agencies and NGOs warnings that the slash in funding will leave 70,000 without healthcare. 100,000 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, will have no water. Several aid agencies made a last-minute appeal to the Foreign Office to halt the aid cuts, as UN Population Fund (UNFPA) stated that the 85 percent reduction amounting to £130m could have prevented 1/4th of millions of child and maternal deaths, 14.6m unintended pregnancies and 4.3m unsafe abortions, Guardian reported. 

Earlier last year, Foreign Office minister Baroness Sugg resigned in protest to foreign aid cut in which was at the time announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Sugg branded the downsizing of the funding as “fundamentally wrong”. In her resignation letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Baroness Sugg wrote: “It is with sadness that I write to resign from the Government. It is fundamentally wrong to abandon our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development. This promise should be kept in the tough times as well as the good.” 

 

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Published July 11th, 2021 at 19:36 IST

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