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Unboxing the myths: foreign aid
A recent poll shows that the vast majority of Brits support overseas aid; they just want it to be well spent and go to where it is needed most. Here is some clarity about what foreign aid is, where it goes and why it is important.
Firstly, the facts.
- International aid accounts for 0.7% of the UK government’s overall budget. This means, for every £1 you spend in tax, 0.7p goes on foreign aid.
- Why 0.7%? Since 1970, the UN has urged wealthy countries to spend 0.7% to support poorer countries and meet worldwide goals on eradicating poverty. In 2013, this target was enshrined in law in the UK.
- The top five countries receiving UK aid in 2018 were Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Syria and Afghanistan. Many of the people living in these countries face conflict, extreme poverty and unstable climates.
- Around 75% of the money is allocated to the Department for International Development (DFID). DFID is subject to rigorous independent and parliamentary scrutiny and is among the most transparent and respected aid donors in the world.
Why should you support foreign aid?
UK aid aims to reach people living in some of the poorest and most vulnerable places in the world. It saves lives, reduces poverty and helps build a better world for everyone. From Cyclone Idai that ripped through Malawi and Mozambique earlier this year, to Ebola and the Rohingya refugee crisis, the UK has provided lifesaving aid when people need it the most.
UK aid has strict reporting structures in place ensuring best value for money for the taxpayer. These structures also ensure that aid reaches the poorest people. It is not only crucial in times of crisis and disaster, but in the long-term fight against poverty and the injustices that hit the poorest people hardest.
We have all seen the images that we associate with poverty, conflict and natural disasters. For many complex reasons, governments in very poor countries are not always able to support the needs of their population, especially when unpredictable events happen. This is where aid comes in. The contribution that we make as taxpayers is something that we can all be proud of. To say we can't help people at home if we help them abroad is to present a false choice. We are big enough to do both, and we should. Ultimately, helping the most vulnerable is the right thing to do.
Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved. The Global Hunger Index, designed to track hunger by country and region, shows that while we have made progress in reducing hunger on a global scale since 2000, we still have a long way to go. International aid is ensuring that this progress continues.
Between April 2015 to March 2018, UK aid supported 11.4 million children to gain a decent education, 42 million women of childbearing age, adolescent girls and children under 5 received nutrition support and over 40 million people now have access to clean water and/or better sanitation.
These are just some of the foreign aid ‘wins’. The fact is, aid works and Britain is at the forefront of ensuring this continues, and this would not be possible without the strong mutual partnership between the British people and the UK government.
If aid works, why do we need to keep giving?
Global poverty is never going to be solved overnight. Shifting contexts such as climate change and conflict are pushing many people into poverty either because their homes are being destroyed and they have no access to food and water, as is the case in Syria, or because they are being pushed to the brink of starvation as we can see in places like South Sudan and Yemen. But development is working. Together, we are creating positive sustainable change, and we must work together to keep the momentum going.
We will reach a point where there will be no need for foreign aid. Until that day, we must ensure that the world’s poor and vulnerable are not forgotten.