The UK on Monday said it was “prioritising essential overseas aid funding” such as help for Ukraine, after a report that it had halted “non-essential” relief abroad following Russia’s invasion.
The Financial Times said the UK Treasury had blocked “non-essential new payments for the rest of the summer” over concerns relief work in Ukraine would breach a foreign aid spending cap.
Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2020 decided to cut Britain’s annual budget for overseas development aid, blaming ballooning debt caused by the Covid pandemic.
The budget was slashed to 0.5 percent of gross national income from 0.7 percent, or to £10 billion ($12 billion).
Responding to the FT report, Johnson’s spokesman said “the government is currently prioritising essential overseas aid funding, such as providing humanitarian support to the people of Ukraine.
“The UK government must act within a budget at a time of significant national debt caused by a global pandemic,” he added.
Non-governmental organisations hit out at the report of a halt to foreign aid deemed non-essential.
“We must not accept the false choice of responding to Ukraine and fulfilling our responsibilities to the poorest people facing hunger in East Africa and in many other parts of the world,” said Pete Moorey, head of campaigns and UK advocacy at Christian Aid.
Moorey called on the government to “restore the international aid budget and ensure all funding for Ukraine is in addition to existing UK aid commitments”.
Bernard Aryeetey, international affairs director at WaterAid, also called on the government to restore its foreign aid budget to its pre-pandemic level, “instead of turning its back on millions of vulnerable people across the rest of the globe”.
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