The United Kingdom said Thursday it is temporarily reducing its international aid from £14.5bn (about $20bn) last year to £10bn this year ($14bn) because of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and two UN agencies announced huge funding cuts of more than 80%, AP reports.
The UN Population Fund, which now calls itself the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, said it had been informed that its flagship family planning program was being cut from £154m ($211m) to around £23m ($32m). In addition, it said £12m ($17m) is being cut from its core operating funds.
The agency, known as UNFPA, said the UK was its largest bilateral donor in 2020, providing a total of about $138 million.
UNAIDS, which unites the work of 11 UN organisations trying to reduce HIV infections and deaths to zero, said its funding for 2021 was reduced from £15m ($21 million) in 2020 to £2.5m ($3.5m) for 2021.
In 2020, the UK was the world’s third largest aid donor, spending £14.5bn (about $20bn).
“The seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on aid,” a British government spokesman said, speaking with customary anonymity.
“We will still spend more than £10bn ($14bn) this year to fight poverty, tackle climate change and improve global health,” the spokesman said. “We are working with suppliers and partners on what this means for individual programs.”
UNFPA said it had anticipated $322m from the UK for its family planning program for 2021 and 2022, and the loss of $180m will have a huge impact.
“These cuts will be devastating for women and girls and their families across the world,” UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem said.
The approximately 85% cut to the family planning program “would have helped prevent around 250,000 maternal and child deaths, 14.6 million unintended pregnancies and 4.3 million unsafe abortions,” she said.