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UK slashes direct aid to countries fending off climate crisis

LONDON, March 31, 2021 –  As it prepares to host a critical climate and development summit the UK is slashing direct aid to countries that are home to millions of children on the front-line of the climate emergency.

Around £691m will be cut from the direct aid budgets of countries considered among the most vulnerable to climate change. They include Yemen, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Between them, they will lose around £463 million.

These are countries where extreme climate events fuelled by global warming are destroying harvests, homes and livelihoods, leaving children facing hunger and poverty.

Save the Children UK CEO Kevin Watkins said: “The UK’s broken promises on aid make a mockery of the government’s claim to leadership ahead of the climate summit. No other G7 country is cutting aid. The UK should be stepping up to protect children facing the disastrous impacts of climate change. Instead, it is stepping down and turning its back on children who will be among the worst affected by the climate crisis and for whom we should do be doing more, not less.”

The UK is slashing aid to countries worst affected by the climate crisis

Other countries at risk of deep aid cuts are: Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Liberia. 

While UK aid given directly to these eight countries, plus Malawi and Uganda, dropped by around 10% last year – it will be approximately £126 million lower than in 2019 – it’s expected to drop by £691 million this year. Only Malawi and Uganda buck the trend in 2021.

Last year, UK direct aid to Uganda is estimated to have been slashed by 50% - falling from £119.7 million to £57.8 million - and for Afghanistan, DRC and Liberia it’s estimated to have been cut by more than a quarter – that’s a total of £120 million across all three countries.

Also, over the last two years, the UK supported what are considered to be primarily climate adaptation or mitigation projects in only three of these 10 highlighted countries. Those countries were Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Malawi.

Save the Children Somalia Country Office Director, Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, said: “A devastating climate crisis is growing at a rapid rate in Somalia, fuelling severe food and water shortages, displacing families and reducing the capacity of schools to provide classes. The economic impacts of COVID-19 and prolonged conflict are further pushing families to their limits.

“Children are the most vulnerable during a hunger crisis. Without enough food and the right nutrition, they can become malnourished, which can lead to illness, infections, stunting and death. In Somalia this year, approximately 839,000 children under five are likely to become acutely malnourished and 143,000 children are likely to be severely malnourished – the most life-threatening form of extreme hunger requiring urgent medical treatment to survive.

“For Somali children who will have nothing to eat, these cuts could be a death sentence. The UK should be standing up for the children who are facing hunger, school closures, displacement and exploitation in Somalia, not abandoning them in their hour of greatest need.”

The UK has increased its funding this year for the global Green Climate Fund. However, only Bangladesh – among these 10 countries - has been a significant recipient of the $7.2 billion allocated, to date. Yemen and Somalia have yet to receive any project funding.

Malawi (with a 34% increase - £19.5 million) and Uganda (a 2% increase - £1 million) are the only countries set to experience an increase in UK direct aid funding this year, although in both cases this has followed significant cuts in 2020.


For more information contact: Mervyn Fletcher m.fletcher@savethechildren.org.uk /07444 541744

Out-of-hours / Media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44 7831 650409

Notes to Editors:

Analysis has been undertaken of UK aid to the 10 lowest ranked countries on the ND-GAIN Country Index, where the UK government has an established bilateral programme. The highest ranked of these was Bangladesh at 162nd place.

The ND-GAIN Country Index summarises a country's vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges in combination with its readiness to improve resilience. The factors are combined to provide an indicative guide as to where international public resources are needed most to support the world’s most vulnerable populations.