Dear Prime Minister,
I write to urge you not to reduce the UK aid budget in the upcoming spending review.
The reported reduction would be the biggest single cut of ODA by any country in history. To do this in the middle of the pandemic, when the world’s poorest are suffering so much, would be immoral and dangerous.
By the end of this year, over a million more children under the age of five will have died from a lack of food and healthcare.
This is not because of COVID-19 but because the world’s response has been so incredibly unequal that millions are struggling to survive.
The poorest 20% in the world have received hardly any of the COVID emergency funding, and just 0.13% of the US$8 trillion wealthy countries have announced has gone to multilateral funding for low-income countries. Those who have needed the most help have received the least.
This year the world has faced a common enemy like never before, yet the response so far has been to look after the richest and leave the poorest to fend for themselves. History will judge this harshly and it will be unforgivable if leaders now cut one of the few sources of support for the most marginalised.
Such a cut would exemplify the gross inequality that is starting to define our times; it is difficult to imagine anything more inhumane.
We are now expecting an increase in child labour for the first time in decades. This is a terrible consequence of the pandemic: the poorest families with no savings, no safety net, and no decent place to live are being forced to rely on whatever money any member of their family can bring in, including their children.
The UK has reacted quickly to announce $1 trillion this year in fiscal and macro-financial to support business and people in the UK. Do you really need to take $4 billion from the provision for the poorest people in the world to pay for this?
The executive director of the World Food Programme has already warned of ‘a famine of biblical proportions’ next year; a cut like this would mean stopping nutrition- related interventions for 6.5 million people and nearly 2 million more children will be denied the chance to go to school.
I urge you to reconsider. Instead, use your upcoming presidency of the G7 to show that global leaders will support the poorest and most vulnerable children in this crisis by giving them their fair share of the COVID 19 emergency funding, and lead the way in building a safety net for the poorest people in the world.
You have rightly said you want to commit to a Global Britain. For the millions of lives at stake we encourage you to do this by becoming the positive force you want to be in the world.
At this time of Diwali and Christmas, we remember that light triumphs over dark and we show a spirit of goodwill to all. I respectfully ask you to please show compassion for the millions of lives that will be affected by this decision and reverse this cut.
2014 Nobel Peace Laureate and Founder, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation