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UK aid cuts risk millions of lives, warns World Health Organisation

·2-min read
A UK aid label (PA Wire)
A UK aid label (PA Wire)

Cutting the UK’s foreign aid spending by £4 billion will leave millions of people at risk of dying from “neglected tropical diseases” (NTD), according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Government has decided to suspend the foreign aid guarantee to spend 0.7 per cent of national income even though it is enshrined in legislation and was a Conservative manifesto commitment.

Boris Johnson’s administration cut it to 0.5 per cent as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WHO has written to the International Development Committee to say hundreds of millions of medicinal tablets used to treat NTDs will be destroyed due to the cut, with the UK previously funding the Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ASCEND) programme.

In its submission, the WHO says: “Many of the NTD interventions that were supported by UK aid involved the large-scale distribution of donated medicines to endemic populations; the withdrawal of UK funding makes it likely that an estimated in-country inventory of 276,802,004 tablets donated by British and international pharmaceutical companies will expire and need to be incinerated, rather than being distributed to willing recipients to prevent and eliminate disease.

“No obvious alternative source of funding exists to fill the funding gaps that will be left by the exit of ASCEND.”

It comes days after former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said the cut was bad for Britain’s reputation and made it more difficult for the Prime Minister to bring the world together to tackle key issues.

The PM, meanwhile, has claimed “lefty propaganda” is behind attacks on his foreign aid plans – despite senior Conservative MPs including former prime minister Theresa May leading the opposition.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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