The Chief Executive of Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) Alistair Dutton writes:

Concerning reports this week have indicated the UK government intends to divert funding away from international development. Health, tackling the climate crisis and conflict prevention are all fundamental areas of UK aid around the world – yet these are expected will be axed.

The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund has joined over 200 NGOs in the UK to sound the alarm and ask that the Government reconsider. The poorest people of the world will feel the brunt of this decision.

The reason given for these cuts is the need to divert funds to Ukraine. There is no question that we need to support people affected by the tragic war in Ukraine. SCIAF, through the international Catholic aid network, Caritas, has been helping people since day one with emergency food, shelter, and care.

This is all thanks to the incredible generosity of the people of Scotland. Together, we have raised over £667,000 so far, with an additional £500,000 provided by the Scottish Government. All money raised goes directly into the hands of local humanitarians.

HeraldScotland:

Teleza's parents died when she was young and she was unable to finish her education. For Teleza and others in Paulo Village, Mangochi, Malawi, unreliable rainfall patterns meant bad harvests and hunger. Because of these effects of climate change, and her lack of education, she was unable to provide for her children

 

But we know the war in Ukraine has ramifications for the rest of the world. The rising cost of food and oil comes at a time when other countries – like South Sudan, Ethiopia and Yemen - are already facing famine and severe hunger. At the same time, more than 800 million people suffer extreme hunger day in, day out.

Russia and Ukraine provide roughly 30 per cent of the global wheat and, before the conflict, the UN’s World Food Programme purchased 50 per cent of its wheat from Ukraine to feed people in need. Now the agency is warning millions could be affected as prices increase.

Now is not the time to cut aid that provides a lifeline to the poorest people in the world. The scale of the war in Ukraine means more spending is required, not less. Withdrawing funding from one crisis to pay for another only displaces the problem, and jeopardises the most marginalised people in our society. We shouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

And we can’t forget the climate crisis that looms over us. We know poorest countries in the world face the sharp edge of it: the most recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found nearly all of the deaths attributed to extreme weather events are in the poorest countries in the world.

Last year, the UK aid budget was cut by £4.5 billion – from 0.7% to 0.5% of the UK’s Gross National Income.

A government report, recently leaked by the International Development Select Committee, found that women and children bore the brunt of cuts with programmes tackling violence against women and girls affected.

We know that UK aid, spent well, is of enormous benefit to the world’s poorest. A recent SCIAF project with UK Aid Match support improved the lives of over 46,000 marginalised people in Cambodia, with a focus on agricultural training to deal with climate change and promoting women’s rights and equality.

We have been reminded time and time again the past few years how interconnected we all are. The pandemic, the climate emergency and now the war in Ukraine requires us to unite together.

Right now people across Scotland are fundraising for SCIAF’s WEE BOX appeal. These donations make SCIAF’s work around the world possible as we help those affected by war, famine and the climate crisis. With the public’s help, we will continue to be there for people when they need us.

The UK Government should do the same. Now is not the time to turn away from the world’s poorest people.

You can donate to SCIAF’s WEE BOX appeal here: sciaf.org.uk/weebox