| 15 July 2024, Monday |

UK reduces 85 percent of aid pledged to United Nations family planning program

The UK government has been accused of going back on its promises by cutting 85 percent of aid funding pledged to the United Nations global family planning program.

The UN Population Fund says the UK had pledged for its projects – but now says it will get around £23m this year.

Support for family planning has been championed as a way of improving women and girls’ rights around the world.

The government said Covid meant tough but necessary decisions were needed.

A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) said temporary reductions in aid spending were vital as the pandemic has badly affected public finances.

The government announced last year it would cut UK aid spending from 0.7% of national income to just 0.5% – which amounts to a reduction of more than £4bn – but has yet to confirm which programs will be affected.

Some MPs defended the cuts at the time as being backed by the public, with some politicians arguing that domestic spending should come first during the pandemic crisis.

Family planning includes the provision of contraceptives and maternal health medicines for millions of women in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The UN Population Fund – known as UNFPA – said the UK decision would be “devastating for women and girls and their families across the world”.

UNFPA executive director Dr Natalia Kanem said it “deeply regrets the decision of our longstanding partner and advocate to step away from its commitments at a time when inequalities are deepening and international solidarity is needed more than ever”.

She estimated the £130m lost would have helped prevent about 250,000 maternal and child deaths, 14.6 million unintended pregnancies and 4.3 million unsafe abortions.

‘Basic right’

Ministers have previously said the UK was “world-leading” and “at the forefront of global efforts to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls living in the world’s poorest countries”.

The former Department for International Development – which became part of an enlarged Foreign Office last year – described family planning projects as helping to break the “cycle of poverty” for many women.

Announcing a five-year funding plan worth £600m in 2019, former International Development Secretary Alok Sharma said the package would “help give millions of women and girls control over their bodies, so they can choose if, when and how many children they want”.

“That is a basic right that every woman and girl deserves,” he added at the time.