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UK aid cuts could mean 'near collapse of UK help for children trapped in the world’s worst war zones'

These reports tarnish the UK’s standing as a compassionate, generous, country that is serious about its commitments to the world’s most vulnerable people.

  • Save the Children has spokespeople in the UK and affected countries. please contact: media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44 (0) 7839 650 409

5 March 2021 - Following reported revelations from Open Democracy about the potential for huge UK aid cuts of more than 50% in countries including Syria, Somalia and the Democatic Republic of Congo, please find below comments from Save the Children’s CEO Kevin Watkins and our team in Somalia.

Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive of Save the Children, said:

“If true, these reports tarnish the UK’s standing as a compassionate, generous, country that is serious about its commitments to the world’s most vulnerable people. 

“After the cut in aid to Yemen announced this week, reports that the Government will slash aid to a further nine conflict zones by more than half simply defy credibility.  

“Across the affected countries, 105 million children are living in high-intensity conflicts – two thirds of the global total. We are looking at the near collapse of UK help for children trapped in the world’s worst war zones, just as a second wave of the pandemic bears down on many of them. 

“In Syria alone, ten years after its bloody conflict began, over 11 million people are in reliant on humanitarian assistance, more than half of whom have been forced from their homes. Children in these countries need our support. Instead, the government is turning its back.  

“These reports hammer home the devastating real-life consequences of the UK’s decision to renege on its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of GNI on aid. The government must now urgently rethink this move before it harms children and undermines the UK’s credibility ahead of a crucial G7 summit.  

“Children in countries like Syria and Somalia have all the potential and determination in the world. They need donors to get behind them and keep alive their hopes for a better future.”

Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, Save the Children’s Country Director for Somalia, said: 

“These reports are worse than we feared, and if true the impact on children would be inconceivable. UK-aid funded programs in Somalia are not optional extras. They are critical and lifesaving – food, water, help for malnourished babies, vaccines for remote communities, and learning programs for kids who are out of school. This would be felt by millions of Somali children now, and for years to come. 

“One UK-funded program alone supports over 320,000 people in Karkaar region. This includes babies like 11 month old Anab*, who came to the clinic with diarrhoea and cramping. She was diagnosed and treated and rapidly started to improve. This is one example out of hundreds of thousands of people treated and potential lives saved.  

“On behalf of the children of Somalia, we call on the UK government to reconsider. The combination of continuous climate shocks, COVID-19 and conflict are pushing children and their families to the limit and we need to stand by them and continue our support, now more than ever.”

Laura Jepson, from Plymouth, Devon, Save the Children’s Program Quality Director for Somalia, said: 

“Working in Somalia for over six years, I’ve seen first-hand the impact of UK aid on the lives of Somali children. I’ve heard mothers tell me that if it wasn’t for the UK-funded program, their children might not be alive. I’ve heard teenagers tell me that the UK-funded program that’s teaching them new skills and helping them find employment has given them hope for the future.

“I led Save the Children’s fundraising efforts during the 2017/18 drought, and I saw directly how swift action from the international community, especially donors like the UK, prevented a famine. 

“Children’s lives are hanging in the balance, especially with drought-like conditions further aggravating hunger. Now more than ever donors like the UK government have to step up – and not step back - to avert another crisis in Somalia.”