News that the aid budget is to be cut from 0.7% to 0.5% of the UK’s gross national income (GNI) is a devastating blow for communities living in poverty around the world. At a time when the world economy and health systems are in turmoil, reducing the UK’s aid budget will make the recovery from Covid-19 most difficult for those living in poverty.

The UK FCDO (previously known as DFID) has been a leading light in international development aid, helping to end global poverty“, says Henry Pomeroy, CHASE Africa’s Director. “To quote The One Campaign, “…cutting aid is like cutting funding to the RAF in the middle of the Battle of Britain.” With the extra pressures of Covid-19, support for international aid is more important than ever

Covid-19 has already disrupted years of development work, and studies estimate that the pandemic may reverse progress made in achieveing the Sustainable Development Goals. Lockdowns, disrupted supply chains, pauses on health and education services are already having huge impacts of millions of people globally.

CHASE Africa’s work providing healthcare, family planning and natural resource management in the most remote areas of Kenya and Uganda has been vital throughout 2020. We have adapted our services, relying on a network of trained Community Health Workers to continue to reach the most vulnerable communities. Precautions have been taken to enable Nurses and Community Health Workers to provide information and advice door-to-door, and to continue to enable women and girls to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which would be especially stressful at this time.

Although CHASE Africa is a small player compared to many NGOs, we have now provided over one million services to rural communities. Most of our funding comes from individuals and family trusts and foundations. With many UK funders redirecting their support to communities at home, and individual giving likely to dip due to the recession, this announcement makes the future of many charities providing vital projects uncertain.

In 2019 we secured a grant from DFID to support communities in Kakamega county in Western Kenya – our first grant from the UK government’s aid budget. In 2020, this project has provided rural communities with over 31,000 mobile healthcare services and nearly 8,000 family planning services.

Sharon Atema is one of the women who benefitted from this project in 2020. Sharon is 36 years old, and lives in the village of Mukango in Vihiga County, Western Kenya. Having grown up in a large family, with nine siblings, Sharon was denied a secondary education due to financial pressures. She married at age 20, and has six children, her last born just three months old.

When a Community Health Worker from the project visited Mukango, Sharon learnt about the different types of contraception. After discussing these with her husband, she was provided with a referral to a nearby clinic. Sharon and her husband chose a 3 year contraceptive implant, to avoid having another child for at least the next three years.

Sharon’s story is similar to those we hear from our partners across East Africa. It takes little to change the future of a family and give their children better opportunities in life – like the chance of an education, that Sharon was unable to complete.

UK aid is helping some of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities in the world. Cutting the budget at this time will have severe consequences, and CHASE Africa sincerely hopes that government will stick to their manifesto pledge and renew the 0.7% GNI spend as soon as possible.

At a time when nearly half of small UK international charities say they won’t survive the pandemic without support, cuts to the aid budget will leave many UK charities wondering how to support the communities most in need.