UK aid alleviates poverty and contributes to sustainable development around the globe. It is widely seen as highly effective, and UK aid programmes are among the most transparent in the world. Most people in the UK believe that we have a moral duty to stand alongside people in developing countries, and in 2015, we signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), promising to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Aid won’t achieve that by itself, as big global changes are also needed, including reduced inequality, fairer economic systems, and action on climate change. Yet since 1990, nearly 1.1 billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty. Now, this progress is being reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Official development assistance (ODA) from donors such as the UK has made a big contribution to the social and economic development of many countries. UK aid has:
- Supported immunisation of over 56 million children, saving 990,000 lives, between January 2015 and December 2017. Last year's UK pledge to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance will help immunise up to 75 million children over the next five years.
- Helped immunise up to 45 million children against polio whilst saving £2 billion globally by 2035 in costs saved treating polio.
- Reached over 50 million people, including children under 5, women of childbearing age and adolescent girls through nutrition programmes from 2015 to 2020.
- Supported over 15.6 million people to gain a decent education between 2015 and 2020.
Poverty is not just about a lack of income, but about access to essential services and a say in one’s future. Ensuring that everyone in the world has access to these services, including the most marginalised people, who are often “left behind”, is also at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The UK has been one of the world's leading aid donors, but now, the Government is proposing to cut UK aid from 0.7% of our national income to just 0.5%, a reduction of around a third, or £4 billion. This makes little difference to the recovery of the UK economy, but has a huge impact on the help we can provide around the world. For eample, it is estimated that 100,000 more children will die of vaccine-preventable diseases as a result.