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Cuts to overseas aid thwart UK efforts to fight Covid pandemic


Cuts to overseas aid thwart UK efforts to fight Covid pandemic

Cuts to the government’s overseas aid budget of more than £3.5bn have undermined the quality of the UK’s efforts to slow the global Covid-19 pandemic, ministers’ own aid spending watchdog has found.

It is the first official UK assessment of how the cuts to the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget have damaged the British contribution to the fight against Covid in poorer countries, with a number of such programmes having been “reduced or closed, increasing the burden on developing countries and placing vulnerable groups at increased risk”.

As a result, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) says, the “ability of the UK aid programme to respond flexibly to the evolving pandemic has been reduced”.

The report, looking into the first 16 months of ministers’ response to Covid, finds that from November 2020 the “scale of the budget cuts required to meet the reduction of the aid spending target from 0.7% to 0.5% of UK gross national income meant that many areas of aid spending linked to the pandemic response were affected”.

It says decisions on where to cut “were mostly taken centrally, with overseas networks and spending teams closest to the programmes providing advice. They did not always reflect the substantial volume of evidence and analysis on pandemic-related risks and vulnerabilities that had been collected”.

It points out that by March 2021, one year into the pandemic, the UN had estimated that 12 million women had seen interruption in their access to contraceptives, leading to 1.4 million unwanted pregnancies.

Yet the report points out that in April 2021 the UK government announced its decision to reduce funding by 85% to UNFPA Supplies Partnership, the UN’s flagship programme focused on expanding access to reproductive health services.

The report concludes: “Programmes that would have mitigated the long-term damage of the pandemic … have been reduced or closed, as well as long-term investments delivering good value for money, which have been ended.”

It cites a 27% decrease in funding for “social safety nets” for Syrian refugee families in Jordan as another example of a cut that went against the available guidance. The report warns that it is not yet clear how much of the vaccine help given by the UK will qualify as ODA or instead have to come from other budgets.

The report points out that as of October 2021 less than 2% of the populations in Sudan and Zambia have been vaccinated. It also says too many specialist staff were mandated to return to the UK at a time when their skills were needed. Development staff were reallocated to work on consular issues for British nationals.

The ICAI commissioner, Sir Hugh Bayley, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has reversed development gains made in many of the world’s poorest countries, pushing an additional 97 million people into extreme poverty.

“The UK’s early aid response was strong and made an important contribution to global efforts to develop vaccines. It is important that the government now builds on this to accelerate the supply of Covid-19 vaccines to developing countries and to ensure they are used to protect the most vulnerable people.”

The report says ministers pivoted funds and rapidly allocated £733m of UK aid by mid-April 2020, making the UK one of the largest donors during the early phase of the international response.

But it says the distribution of vaccines to poor countries has been disappointing and this, coupled with the challenges of delivery within vulnerable countries, “highlights the need for the UK to continue to build on its initial investment”.

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AIDS Agency Chief Says 1 Out Of 100 Persons Positive In Kaduna

The Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Aids Control Agency (KADSACA), Dr Isa Baka has said a survey had revealed that one out of 100 people is positive to the AIDS disease in the state.

Baka disclosed this speaking shortly after a walk in commemoration of the World AIDS Day, on Thursday in Kaduna.

The theme of the year’s’ World AIDS Day is “Equalise to End AIDS: Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services’’.

He said the present statistics was a remarkable development against previous survey which gave 11 of every 100 people in the state.

Baka added that the AIDS prevalence in Kaduna, which is at 1.1, being a survey carried out by the state government itself, was later done at the national level, where that of Kaduna was confirmed as very accurate.

“At the national level, the prevalence of the virus (AIDS) was at 1.4 (four people out of 100 test positive), while that of Kaduna is confirmed to be 1.1, was in determination of the state government and KADSACA’s efforts to ensure minimal prevalence of the virus,” he said.

He said as part of efforts to continue reducing the prevalence of AIDS in the state, government initiated programmes across the 23 LGAs.

He said one of the UNICEF anchored programmes, which is the ‘Adolescent and Youths Living With HIV and AIDS’ programme, was present and effective in at least, 18 LGAs and 24 sites in the state.

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Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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