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Aid cuts ‘to leave 100,000 refugees without water’

PM faces rebellion after launching £4bn raid on overseas budget

TORY foreign aid cuts will leave 100,000 refugees without water and devastate health services for the world’s most vulnerable, campaigners have warned.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was slammed by MPs on all sides for his decision to temporarily reduce foreign aid from 0.7 per cent of national income to 0.5 per cent, breaking a 2019 manifesto committment in the process. 

The government claimed that the reduction was reasonable given the economic disruption caused by the pandemic.

But the cuts, amounting to about £4 billion, mean that Britain is the only country in the G7 group of richer nations to reduce foreign aid spending during the crisis.

A total of 30 Tory MPs, including former PM Theresa May, have supported an amendment, due to be voted on tomorrow if selected by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, which would require new legislation to make up the shortfall.

The SNP challenged Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to end his “deafening silence” today and back cross-party efforts to force the PM to reverse the punishing cuts, which were described by SNP deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald as “callous to the core.”

Mr Johnson was warned that he risks further undermining Britain’s international reputation before this weekend’s G7 summit in Cornwall, where he will meet counterparts from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan to discuss the post-pandemic recovery and the climate crisis.

In a letter sent to the PM today, 1,700 signatories including charities, academics and business leaders warned: “Without a reversal to this decision, the UK’s calls to other G7 leaders to do more on critical issues such as vaccine delivery, healthcare, climate change and famine prevention risk ringing hollow.”

The letter, signed by major charities such as Oxfam GB and Save the Children, said that there was no justification for reduced funding after Bank of England economic forecasts showed that Britain was set to return to pre-pandemic levels of gross domestic product by the end of the year. 

In a separate letter sent to Foreign Office Minister Nigel Adams, charities warned that the cuts would leave about 70,000 people without health services and 100,000 without water in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee settlement.

The site in Bangladesh is home to many Rohingya who have fled repression in neighbouring Myanmar.

In the private letter, seen by the Guardian, aid agencies working in the area said the cuts represent a staggering blow to the government’s commitments on the persecuted group after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged the world “not to turn away from Rohingyas’ suffering” last year.

Doctors Without Borders executive director Vickie Hawkins said: “The issue is not only the scale of the cuts, but also the deeply irresponsible way in which they have been carried out — overnight and without warning.

“The government has effectively pulled the rug out from under nurses and doctors providing care to some of the world’s most neglected communities.

“We hope MPs will vote to make a clear statement to the government that it is not acceptable to step away from life-saving programmes and research.

“We also need to see an urgent plan of action to address the terrible damage that the government’s short-sighted decision is already wreaking.”

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