UK aid is in the news. Take action.
In Sierra Leone, fourteen women die every day in childbirth. Fourteen women. Fourteen daughters. Those fourteen women represent one out of every eight pregnancies in Sierra Leone. Think about the women you know. 1 Anna, 2 Emily, 3 Jennifer, 4 Sarah ,5 Beth, 6 Judith, 7 Katie, 8 dead.
Every woman has the right to expect better odds than this. VSO is working in Sierra Leone to change things. VSO volunteers like Alice Waterman are training midwives in techniques that are saving lives. Like most UK charities working in international development, we receive money from Government to fund a portion of our work. (Although we can always do more with more money so if you want to donate please click here) The more UK aid available, the more we can all contribute to changing the odds in favour of ordinary people. People who have ordinary needs and ordinary dreams, but who face extraordinary challenges in life. Over the next three years the gvernment plans to increase aid spending from 0.56% to 0.7% of Gross National Income. You can read my comment about the budget from last week.
Today the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee (a group of twelve Lords and a Baroness) have released a report, arguing that the UK government should focus on quality rather than on increasing the aid budget. Their press release, which has led to significant coverage in today’s media, was entitled ‘Government should abandon 0.7% target’.
The central policy proposal identified in the press release is that the target of increasing aid spending to a level of 0.7% should be dropped. They argue the government will “Wrongly prioritise the amount spent rather than results achieved.” and “Make the achievement of the target more important than the overall effectiveness of the programme.”
Their assertion seems to me completely baseless. Since coming to government, the coalition has reviewed all UK aid programmes and set out a new vision for our aid (welcomed by the committee), it has set up a new Independent Commission for Aid Impact and in Andrew Mitchell’s response to the Economic Affairs Committee report, he makes it clear that aid spending is about results: “11 million children into school, vaccinate 55 million children against preventable diseases and stop 250,000 newborn babies dying needlessly.” The Secretary of State and Government have made results the primary focus at DFID. It is ridiculous for the Lords Committee to assert that focus will divert onto getting the money out of the door for the sake of it.
We can all get started right away. Right now on the Daily Mail’s website dozens of people are commenting on the Economic Affairs Committee Aid Report.. Comments include “This is our taxes that you [UK Government] are squandering on your self serving world stage image not yours!! If YOU and your CRONIES want to [g]ive money to these overseas countries use YOUR OWN MONEY and use OUR taxes for the benefit of OUR people!!!” If they are left unchallenged then the Daily Mail will continue to set an editorial policy which is anti-development. We need to make sure that readers of the Daily Mail know that a lot of aid money is well spent and makes an enormous difference to people’s lives.