UK aid cuts will leave millions at risk of death from tropical diseases, says World Health Organisation

The foreign aid budget was cut to 0.5 per cent as a result of the economic impact of the Covid pandemic

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said cutting the UK’s foreign aid spending will leave millions of people at risk of dying from “neglected tropical diseases” (NTD).

The UK's annual foreign aid budget has been reduced from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of national income, which is a cut of almost £4 billion.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said cutting the UK’s foreign aid spending will leave millions of people at risk of dying from “neglected tropical diseases” (Photo: Shutterstock)

At a glance: 5 key points

- The Government recently decided to suspend the foreign aid guarantee to spend 0.7 per cent of national income

- The foreign aid budget was cut to 0.5 per cent as a result of the economic impact of the Covid 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

- Senior Conservative MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May, are leading the opposition against the cuts

- Neglected tropical diseases include elephantiasis, trachoma and Guinea Worm

What’s been said

“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.”

The WHO’s submission to the International Development Committee

Background

The Who’s submission comes days after former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said the foreign aid cut was bad for the UK’s reputation and made it more difficult for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to bring the world together to tackle key issues.

However, the Prime Minister claimed “lefty propaganda” is behind attacks on his foreign aid plans.

This is despite senior Conservative MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May, leading the opposition against the cuts.

Neglected tropical diseases include elephantiasis, trachoma and Guinea Worm, which are among 20 disease groups that mainly affect people in the poorest countries.

The UK previously funded the Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ASCEND) programme.

The WHO said that prior to its aid cuts, the UK provided funding to 19 countries through ASCEND.

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