Outrage grows at scale of UK development assistance cuts; funding for UNFPA, UNAIDS cut by over 80%, UNICEF by 60%

Outrage has been growing about the UK government’s development assistance budget cuts, as details continue to emerge about the programs and partners that are affected.

In November of 2020, the UK government decided to temporarily reduce its official development assistance (ODA) budget to 0.5% of its gross national income in 2021 (from 0.7% in 2020), with funding cuts of around £4.0 billion (US$5.4 billion) compared to 2019 volumes. The government’s decision to cut the budget was in response to the economic impact of COVID-19.

According to reports in newspapers with recently-emerged details, the UK will cut its funding to:

  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, which has been reduced by 85% from £154 million (US$206 million) to £23 million (US$40 million);
  • The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which is to be cut from over 80% from £15 million (US$20 million) to £3 million (US$3 million);
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which has been cut by 60% from £40 million (US$53 million) in 2020 to £16 million (US$21 million) in 2021;
  • The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has been cut by 95% with funding reduced from £100 million (US$134 million) to £5 million (US$7 million) in 2021; and
  • Water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in partner countries, which are reported as being cut by 80%.

It also appears that the Small Charities Challenge Fund, the Community Partnerships Fund, UK Aid Connect, UK Aid Direct Impact, and the UK Partnerships for Health Systems programs have been canceled entirely, according to NGOs that receive money through these funds.

Civil society and members of parliament have said that the depth of the cuts puts lives at risk and diminishes UK global leadership on international development, in the very year when the UK is hosting the G7 and the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26.

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