Pictured: Midwives in Kampala, Uganda, trained by Amref Health Africa with funding from the UK government (a programme that closed in late 2020) (c) Esther Mbabazi
Programmes implemented by Nairobi-led INGO Amref Health Africa are facing significant cuts as part of the reduction in UK aid spending.
“Like many organisations, Amref Health Africa has been hit by the recently-announced cuts to UK aid,” says Camilla Knox-Peebles, Chief Executive of Amref Health Africa UK.
“Whilst we still await confirmation of the extent of these cuts, we know at-risk populations in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa will be affected by reductions in funding for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes; family planning support; work to end sexual and gender-based violence; and our ongoing COVID-19 response. The information we’ve received to date suggests that some budgets could be reduced by as much as 80%, and other programmes cut entirely.”
Decreased support for vital services will have a significant impact on health systems across Africa, and the people who depend on them. It is already-marginalised groups – women and girls first among them – who will be hardest hit.
Significant cuts to life-saving programmes in South Sudan
Two of the programmes that we know will be affected are being implemented in South Sudan, which is home to one of the world’s most fragile health systems. The first focuses on sustainably strengthening health systems, and the second – which has been suspended with immediate effect – on addressing neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) through improved water and sanitation.
“COVID-19 has put increased pressure on health workers and services that were already under-resourced and over-stretched,” says Morrish Ojok, Country Director with Amref South Sudan. “The health system here relies heavily on funding from international donors. Any withdrawal of support can have a devastating impact on ordinary citizens, particularly women, children, and vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities. In this case, critical services like immunisation, maternal health support, and the diagnosis and treatment of diseases will be affected. There is no back-up plan: without international funding, these services will simply cease to exist.”
“Scaling down WASH programming at this critical time can only harm South Sudan’s efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” he adds. “We are also seeing a lot of fear surrounding vaccination, specifically the COVID-19 vaccine. Awareness-raising activities that tackle myths and misinformation are a vital way to create demand for the vaccine; these activities will also be affected by the reduction in funding. I expect the cuts to have a direct impact on uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine in South Sudan.”
A breaking of our promises to the rest of the world
Amref Health Africa is deeply concerned about the cuts to humanitarian and development programming around the world, as well as their timing. The challenges that the world is now facing – including COVID-19 and its secondary impacts, climate injustice, threats to human rights, and increased inequality, epitomised by the inequitable roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine – demand that we stand together as a global community, perhaps more than at any other time in recent history.
The UK government has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to supporting people living in poverty, combatting COVID-19, strengthening health systems, and promoting gender equality and girls’ education, as well as underlining the strategic importance of the UK’s relationship with Africa. The dramatic reduction in aid spending represents a breaking of these promises.
In a year when the UK will host three events of global significance – the G7 Summit in June, the replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in July, and COP26 in November – these cuts make it hard to cast ourselves as the bold and visionary leader we aspire to be.
Notes to editors
Amref Health Africa is Africa’s leading health NGO. Headquartered in Nairobi, Amref works in 35 countries across the continent to sustainably strengthen health systems and improve access to life-saving care.
Since March 2020, Amref has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response in East, West, and Southern Africa.
In-country spokespeople available. Please contact Rachel Erskine, Communications Manager, Amref Health Africa UK, on +44(0)7444 200 727, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.