Sunday, May 9

DRC aid agencies call on UK Foreign Ministry to suspend “disastrous” cuts DRC

A consortium of 19 aid agencies operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has made a last-minute appeal to the UK Foreign Office to suspend planned aid cuts to the country, where a third of the population faces acute insecurity. food.

The Foreign Ministry, the second largest provider of aid to the war-torn country, has told aid agencies that cuts are highly likely. Although the size has not yet been agreed upon, a report has suggested a 60% reduction in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office budget for the country. The FCDO aid program for the Congo was worth £ 180 million in 2019.

In a joint statement, the aid agencies said they “implore the British government to reconsider this disastrous decision.”

The agencies warn that the human cost of a 60% reduction would be devastating and say that “the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is dire: 27.3 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity, one in three of the population and 7 million people now one step away from catastrophe. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is now home to the largest number of people facing food insecurity on the planet.

“As the second largest provider of aid to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, any cut would be a severe blow to a country facing multiple crises. If Global Britain is to be a force for good in the world, it must not turn its back on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “

Agencies on the ground said aid programs are at stake as they await the final word from London on the scale of the cuts.

Benjamin Viénot, country director of Action for Hunger, one of the agencies that signed the appeal said: “I have worked in Liberia, Yemen, Ethiopia and I have never seen so much malnutrition as here. We are treating children with complications such as diarrhea, malaria, or eye diseases. They cannot eat on their own, so they need therapeutic milk or sometimes a tube from the mouth to the stomach. It is very clear what will happen if these cuts occur. We will only have 80 of the 210 planned health centers. There are 50,000 children’s lives that were not saved. I have great respect for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but I am not playing with the consequences of these cuts. “

Niamh Murnaghan of the Norwegian Refugee Council said: “UK aid helps by providing emergency cash vouchers to those fleeing conflict for their lives with only what they wear and can put on their backs. In the last 18 months we have provided assistance to more than 200,000 people ”.

He showed a recent film in which a displaced woman, Kahambu Grace, said: “We came here because of the violence. My mother and father have died. They are killing people and burning houses where we come from. We didn’t know what to do, so we fled to Bulongo, but not long after Bulongo was attacked. We really don’t know what to do or how to survive. ”

The film and the aid program are funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Pascale Barnich, country director for Marie Stopes International, which is running the Foreign Ministry’s flagship program on reproductive health, said she is waiting to find out if an 18-month extension will be allowed. He said that between October 2018 and March 2020 MSI, with its partners, had served 453,000 family planning users, meaning 2,560 maternal deaths had been prevented and 643,000 unintended pregnancies had been avoided.

Whitney Elmer, country director for Mercy Corps, an agency that specializes in rapid response to displacement and hunger, said: “We were just told to expect significant cuts. When you look at the needs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the number of displaced people, the second highest number of displaced people in the world, this seems like an odd place to choose for big cuts. Britain has built that reputation on aid in recent years. This is an area of ​​greatest need with the Covid effect just beginning. It is unlikely that a country of this size will be vaccinated even within two years. “

The UK Foreign Office is cutting its aid budget by almost a third in two years due to a reduction in the size of the economy and a decision to reduce the size of the aid budget from 0.7% of national income 0.5% crude. It has already announced a 60% cut in its humanitarian aid to Yemen, a decision that will be investigated by the select committee for international development next week.

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