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    Donors step in to cover cuts to overseas aid

    By BO LEUNG in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-07-14 09:28
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    The exterior of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is seen on May 4, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. [Photo/Agencies]

    A consortium of philanthropic organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has pledged $130 million of emergency funding to temporarily cover the gap left by the British government's cut to foreign aid.

    On Tuesday, UK lawmakers voted by a majority of 35 to support the government's foreign aid spending cut, from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent of national income.

    The group, which includes the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation, and Open Society Foundations, said the funding will help save "critical projects tackling preventable diseases and providing family planning, ensuring progress to date is not wasted".

    The group added that 80 million people will be protected from debilitating, disabling, and, in many cases, deadly preventable diseases and the emergency funds will prevent life-saving drugs from being thrown away because they have passed their expiry date.

    The temporary funding will also ensure that women living in the poorest parts of the world are able to access family planning services to avoid unplanned pregnancies.

    "These life-saving treatments are cost-effective investments. If they go unfunded this year, British taxpayer generosity will be wasted as clinics are closed and essential drugs expire and are thrown away," said consortium spokesperson Kate Hampton, CEO of the Children's Investment Fund Foundation.

    "We are stepping in so that, when the government returns to its commitments next year as it has promised, the progress made will not have been lost. Otherwise, we will see a generation derailed by unplanned pregnancies and debilitating illness where health systems have already been disrupted by COVID-19, and the UK's aid cuts are now making it worse."

    As a result of the budget cut, the United Nations' Family Planning program will see funding from the UK cut by 85 percent.

    The Women's Integrated Sexual Health program will also be affected, despite reaching 3.5 million of the world's poorest girls and women.

    Open Society Foundations are contributing $10 million to protect health services for disadvantaged women.

    "We are a human right, not a development organization, but the British aid cuts have cruelly targeted this most fundamental right of women to control their reproductive lives. It is a shameful betrayal of British values in the world and risks a generation of unplanned pregnancies and families driven into poverty," said Mark Malloch-Brown, president of the Open Society Foundation.

    A government spokesperson told the BBC and the Guardian: "The UK will spend more than 10 billion pounds ($13.8 billion) to improve global health, fight poverty and tackle climate change this year-making us one of the biggest aid donors in the G7.

    "We have always been clear that the government will return to spending 0.7 percent of GNI (gross national income) on international development as soon as the fiscal situation allows."

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