Joint Statement of the International Child Health Group (ICHG), Faculty of Public Health Global Health Committee and the Faculty of Public Health Yemen Special Interest Group
The government's decision to halve total aid spending to Yemen during the world’s ‘worst humanitarian crisis in decades’ is, in the words of the UN secretary general, a ‘death sentence’.1 Preventing children from starving to death is the absolute minimum that could be expected from the most powerful governments in the world at this time of crisis. We believe the UK should be demonstrating leadership at this time.
The United Nations (UN) warned in February 2021 that nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in Yemen are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021,2 including 400,000 who may die as a result without urgent action from donors.3 At the same time, health services are already suffering due to reduction in funding or diversion to covid-related activities, and preventable infectious disease are spreading, causing unnecessary deaths.4 As we warned last year, the collateral impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe disruption to preventive and curative health services in the poorest settings. Children globally are bearing the brunt of this shock.5
While the pandemic has affected all economies, now is the time that the UK should be providing leadership in the world’s humanitarian crises, especially as we lead up to hosting the G7 summit in June this year. The current government has been elected on a manifesto commitment of spending 0.7% of GDP in overseas aid, which already accounts for reduced income, and any further cuts to the budget should only be passed by a vote in the Commons.6 Such a vote has not taken place. The prime minister has said that the British people would support the aid cuts. Considering the real impact on children and the lives that will be lost, we disagree.
As one of the world’s richest economies, this is not the time to step away from our responsibilities to the world’s poorest children. We urge the government to immediately commit to increasing support and ring-fencing commitments which have been made in their manifesto to the poorest and most fragile settings.