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Foreign Aid: Bill Gates And Others To Partially Cover UK Aid Cuts

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A Syrian refugee holds her newborn girl in Beirut
Projects providing family planning services will be among those to benefit from the temporary funding

A group of philanthropists, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are to provide £93.5m emergency funding to cover some UK foreign aid cuts.

They said the temporary funding would help save “critical projects” and ensure progress was not “wasted”.

The government has decided to reduce this year’s spending on overseas aid from 0.7% of national income to 0.5%.

It said the financial impact of the pandemic had forced ministers to take “tough but necessary decisions”.

The group, which also includes the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation and Open Society Foundations, said the emergency funds would help projects tackling preventable diseases and providing family planning and sexual health services.

They said it would prevent life-saving drugs from being thrown away because they pass their expiry date, and ensure women living in the poorest parts of the world are able to avoid unplanned pregnancies.

The UN’s family planning agency (UNFPA) looks set to lose some 85% of its funding from the UK, a drop of about £130m.

A spokeswoman for the funder consortium, Kate Hampton, chief executive of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, said: “These life-saving treatments are cost-effective investments. If they go unfunded this year, British taxpayer generosity will be wasted as clinics are closed and essential drugs expire and are thrown away.”

The emergency funding was welcomed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said it was “desperately needed”.

However, he called on the government to restore its commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid.

Bar chart showing ODA since 2013

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “When Britain withdraws, others step in. By cutting our aid, we have given states such as China and Russia an opportunity to expand their influence at Britain’s expense.”

Charities including Oxfam and ActionAid have criticised the cuts – which amount to around £4bn a year – warning that they have already forced projects to be cancelled.

Many Tory MPs have also spoken out against the move, which went against the pledge in the 2019 Conservative election manifesto to stick to the 0.7% figure.

But Chancellor Rishi Sunak has previously said it was hard to “justify” the commitment with the UK facing record borrowing, and with a national debt of well over £2 trillion.

A government spokesperson said: “The UK will spend more than £10bn to improve global health, fight poverty and tackle climate change this year – making us one of the biggest aid donors in the G7.”

“We have always been clear that the government will return to spending 0.7% of GNI [gross national income] on international development as soon as the fiscal situation allows,” the spokesperson added.

Chart comparing G7 spend on foreign aid as % of GNI
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