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UK aid cuts: government marking ten years of Syria war with ‘a decision that will cost more lives’

Sunday 7 March, London – Just days before Syria marks ten years of war, the government’s reported plans to cut UK aid to the country by 67% will cost more lives, Save the Children said in a statement today.

Following the charity’s statement on reported revelations from Open Democracy that the UK government is planning aid cuts of more than 50% to countries including Syria, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, please find new comments below from Amjad Yamin from Save the Children’s Syria response team, and Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK.

Amjad Yamin, Advocacy, Media and Communications Director at Save the Children’s Syria office, said:

“I cannot imagine how Syria’s children, after ten years of war, will feel to hear that the UK is abdicating responsibility in this way. The UK is currently a world leader in funding education in Syria. And such drastic cuts will only make an escalating crisis even worse.

“Our recent estimates show that only one in three children in northern Syria are currently in school, with pandemic-related closures being the last straw for many. Just last month, extreme weather destroyed 119 schools in North West Syria. Tents were swept away or flooded, school materials were lost, and places of learning became subsumed by muddy swamps.

“Recently, seven year old Lara, who lives in a refugee camp with her family in Idlib, told us that all she wants is for the war to end so that she can go back to school, go to university and become a teacher when she grows up. I hope this will resonate with the compassionate British public, whose schools are beginning to re-open this week after a year of disruption.

“It's just days until the inconceivable moment when Syria and its children will have endured ten full years of relentless conflict. That’s the length of both world wars combined. And if these reports of aid cuts are true, the UK is marking this grim milestone with a decision that will cost more lives.

“The UK’s support is key to delivering healthcare, education and protection for Syrian families. It has been a leader in humanitarian aid in Syria, but this policy sends a message that Syrian children can no longer look to the UK for help.”

Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK, said:

“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.

"Ten years after its bloody conflict began, over 11 million people are reliant on humanitarian assistance, more than half of whom have been displaced from their homes.

“A 67% cut in UK aid to Syria could mean removing education support from 350,000 children or leaving over 115,000 mothers and children under the age of five without nutrition support. It could also mean 1.9 million fewer medical consultations*. That means mothers with children suffering from malnutrition and potentially lethal diseases being unable to access care - and it means more preventable suffering and lost lives.

“This is just a fraction of the wider impact that these cuts will have on some of the most vulnerable people on earth."

*According to UK Government figures, in 2020 UK Aid supported 521,370 children in education, 173,368 children and lactating mothers with nutrition and 2,804,301 medical consultations.