The impact of the UK aid cuts on NGOs

We are fast approaching June, which marks the anniversary of the UK government cutting its aid budget by £4.5bn – from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income (GNI).

The decision was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in November 2020, despite the 0.7% commitment being met every year since 2013 – and enshrined in law in 2015.

The severance has impacted almost all previously funded international programmes that cover areas such as global health and humanitarian work. We have reached out to our members to find out how the UK aid cuts have impacted their work.

Our tracker complements the Devex article, Tracking the UK’s controversial aid cuts, and lists each NGO by the total value of cuts to their grants and contracts (in descending order) followed by the average percentage by which all their programmes have subsequently been cut. Where the organisation wishes to remain anonymous, they are referred to as “Organisation X”.

Disclaimer: As this complements the Devex tracker, it is not exhaustive – and since many organisations have undergone severe budget cuts, some have chosen to keep their information private. The length of information provided is not proportionate to the degree of impact.

£46million (100%) – Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET)’s UK Partnerships for Health Systems programme would have enabled NHS staff to provide critical training to over 78,000 healthcare professionals in low and lower-middle-income countries, including care for children with cancer and improving maternal and neonatal care. Due to be implemented across 2020-2024, the funding for the five-year programme was approved by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (then DFID) in December 2019 but later cancelled on 23rd April 2021, despite current reductions in the UK aid budget being posited as a temporary measure.

£43million (38%) – Sightsavers, whose Ascend programme (Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases) in West and Central Africa was their most significantly cut programme, says latest figures show that approximately 72 million of their medical treatments may no longer happen due to the cuts (this may reduce as alternative funding is pledged). “We remain very concerned for the prospects of countries like DRC, Liberia and Sierra Leone where millions of people remain at risk and untreated for diseases like river blindness, which causes unbearable itching and can lead to irreversible sight loss.”

£12.7million (73%) – Organisation X says their research and innovation programmes across the African continent and Newton Fund partner countries will effectively make no new awards without private finance, including some international development research projects at UK universities.

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£5.7million (20%) – Concern Worldwide, which delivers life-saving interventions to some of the world’s most vulnerable people, says the cut terminates a large consortium programme that was using innovation to give access to quality health care to the most disadvantaged communities in south-western Bangladesh.

£5million (100%) – Organisation X says their Aid Connect project for innovative work to prevent and respond to violent conflict has been completely cut at the start of its third year out of four. This leaves communities in Myanmar, the Central African Republic, and Boko Haram-affected northeast Nigeria, vulnerable at a time of rising conflict and persistent violence.

£4million (57%) – Organisation X says they face a significant funding gap towards the tail end of two of their planned programmes delivering direct and indirect nutrition interventions in Bangladesh and Ethiopia. If they were to need scaling back, they would miss reaching at least 3 million women and children with essential nutrition solutions across these two programmes after 2023.

£4million (57%) – Organisation X faces a significant funding gap towards the tail end of two of their planned programmes – Bangladesh and Ethiopia Phase 2. This impact will be compounded if the other programme donors scale back their commitments because of the reduced match funding from FCDO.

£4million (100%) – Organisation X says their Conflict Sensitivity programme in Yemen has been cancelled. A funding opportunity addressing sexual and gender-based violence in Sudan has been cancelled. The third phase of a programme supporting women mediators has been cancelled. The renewal of a programme fostering social and strategic communication in Lebanon has been cancelled. The second phase of a funding opportunity supporting civil society engagement in Syria has been cancelled.

£3million (100%) – Organisation X says they will be unable to reach marginalised populations with information and services on HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Uganda, Lebanon, Myanmar and Zimbabwe. The cancellation of pipeline opportunities will mean they are unable to reach women with violence prevention and response services.

£3million (100%) – Organisation X says their Aid Connect project for innovative work to prevent and respond to violent conflict has been completely cut at the start of its third year (out of four). This leaves communities in Myanmar, the Central African Republic, and Boko Haram-affected northeast Nigeria vulnerable at a time of rising conflict and persistent violence.

£2.5million (79%) – Organisation X, working on the front lines of crisis, disaster, poverty, and climate change, says: “The cuts to future programming will have a significant impact. We continue to navigate/learn about the size and scale of these cuts.”

£2.2million (100%) – Orbis says that momentum for their work in Ethiopia will be lost in the multi-year programme to eliminate trachoma across the country. In Bangladesh, an underserved district (400k population) will have to wait for its eye care system to be strengthened.

£2million (21%) – Organisation X, which works to improve education, says: “One of the biggest challenges has been managing the uncertainty. It has caused challenges in our relations with local stakeholders including governments, delayed project delivery, and additional stress to our staff, not knowing if they would be made redundant or if the work they have contributed to would continue.”

£1.9million (100%) – Organisation X says: “The cuts will drastically reduce leprosy case detection in Bangladesh over the next four years, and a project to fuel employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Nepal will cease.”

£1.5million (100%) – Organisation X says approximately 12 country programmes tackling poverty are now under threat, mainly across both Africa and Central America. There may be a possible loss of staff and high-level political support. The organisation is concerned that the overall loss of momentum could set progress back by two to three years and even result in the closure of the programme.

£1.2million (100%) – Cambridge Global Health says there has been a reduction in activity of their four health partnership projects in Uganda and Myanmar, and in new projects they had planned in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe. These projects would have developed and improved services for childhood cancer patients, mothers and tiny infants, patients with infectious diseases, stroke survivors and road traffic casualties.

£1.2million (100%) – Water Witness International says all their climate resilience and water security work for vulnerable communities in Tanzania has been cut. The programme targeted improved resilience to climate shocks for 5 million people. “The cut threatens the future viability of our organisation and our partners – employing 20 staff.”

£1million (100%) – Karuna Trust says their programme to provide safe menstruation instead of stigmatisation to 3,000 girls in Western Nepal can no longer be funded. The project aims to improve women’s health and decrease discriminatory practices related to menstruation, helping to empower girls and women to live safely and hygienically during their menstruation. Their programme to enable 3,000 girls to attend school has also had its funding stopped entirely.

£950,000 (100%) – Organisation X says this cut means roughly a 50% cut to their women’s economic empowerment work in Pakistan. A spokesperson says: “We understand that cuts need to be made, but it could have been managed better. The decision to proceed with UK Aid Direct grants in September 2020 shouldn’t have happened if the decision wasn’t final. It would have been better if everything could have stayed on hold.”

£900,000 (20%) – Farm Africa says the cuts have caused full closure of their flagship programme on livestock for livelihoods in Uganda and Ethiopia, which directly affects about 20,000 pastoralists. This includes more than 10,000 women (and indirectly their households) across South-western Ethiopia and North-eastern Uganda as they will not get the full intervention package. About 20 staff are now at risk of losing their jobs at short notice.

£828,000 (100%) – Stir Education, which supports education systems in India and Uganda, had to make four staff redundant while also making significant cost reductions including freezing all increments, promotions, moving to a smaller office space, reducing our programme spend.

£750,000 (100%) – Organisation X’s project to improve women’s access to land and economic empowerment in Zambia has been cancelled. “All the target women living in slum areas will be severely affected.”

£700,000 (55%) – Minority Rights Group says that their Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) programme for the ultra-marginalised in Kenya, Ethiopia, Cambodia and Myanmar has been forced to close in the second year of a planned four-year project due to the cuts.

£700,000 (75%) – Organisation X says because of the cut to their programme, 10,500 women in rural Afghanistan will not be able to complete their vocational training courses, basic literacy course, or receive the training in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Their male family members will also not receive SRHR training. The project was in its fourth and final year.

£600,000 (65%) – Organisation X says an entire programme working to improve the lives of people living in and working on dumpsites in Bangladesh – mostly children, young people, and women – has been axed completely. “We work with children in the worst forms of child labour.”

£280,000 (29%) – Organisation X says all of their FCDO-funded early childhood education programmes (play-based kindergarten teacher training) in Ghana have been terminated. They say: “This cut potentially relinquishes FCDO’s leadership role in ECE in Africa. We are shocked at the sudden termination of this grant (our largest) and will need to quickly go out to other funding partners to try to ensure financial health for our organisation this year. A devastating situation.”

£267,500 (60%) – Organisation X says the cuts are affecting smallholder farmers’ livelihoods across Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Ethiopia and DR Congo. Smallholder farmers have invested in on-farm trials. They say: “The UK Government turning away now will accelerate further decline into poverty. We are at risk of not only failing to ‘do good’, but actually doing harm by taking people with us, and then dropping them or cutting activity. This poses risks of enhancing poverty and food insecurity, thereby potentially threatening lives.”

£250,000 (30%) – Organisation X says they will have to make at least four people recently recruited redundant. The programme was to take place in Zambia and will affect disability rights and equality of opportunity for deaf youth who are unable to obtain Sexual Reproductive Health or know about HIV or Covid-19.

£250,000 (100%) – Dhaka Ahsania Mission says 1,250 out-of-school children (slightly over half would have been girls), living in flood-prone areas of northern Bangladesh will now not have access to quality non-formal primary education. ‘Within weeks of contracting, our project would have enrolled 700 out-of-school girls (and 560 out-of-school boys) into rural-based non-formal primary education centres,’ says their spokesperson.

£250,000 (100%) – Advantage Africa says there are several direct impacts of this withdrawal, including but not limited to: 1,000 people with albinism will be at increased risk of life-threatening skin cancer as preventative services including education campaigns, skin clinics, cryotherapy and access to sunscreen are compromised; 150 visually impaired children will not have access to spectacles and other vision aids to support their education; 1,500 people in 300 chronically poor families affected by albinism will not have the opportunity to earn an income to meet their basic needs.

£250,000 (100%) – SEED Madagascar says their entire three-year urban sanitation programme has been cut and their education project, a rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health in schools, is no longer being considered for funding. “We are astonished and disappointed with these cuts.”

£250,000 (100%) – Organisation X says 3,060 students in Mpigi, Arua, Dokolo districts in Uganda won’t receive a transformative life skills and entrepreneurship programme that would have enabled them to stay in education, earn a decent living and create wealth and jobs for others. “This is brutal considering the efforts of so many people over several years to prepare an impactful programme – and one that would have had far greater scrutiny than many other areas of government spending,” says their spokesperson.

£250,000 (100%) – Temwa, which works on sustainable community development in remote, rural areas of northern Malawi, says: “If this project is not implemented, the community will have severe food shortages every year. The lives of rural people depend on their food production, food production depends on sustainable methods of managing the natural resources. Climate change has had such a huge impact on food production if the communities do not implement strategies that bring about resilience they will have continued hunger problems in their household. Our FCDO funding is currently on hold, if we get the funding and implement this programme the community will be able to transform itself.”

£172,300 (52%) – Organisation X says: “Our project was to increase food security and income generation among vulnerable famers in South Sudan. 850 farmers will now not benefit from the support for food security. This will impact 60% women and 10% people living with disabilities. In addition to this is the high % of indirect people as the average family size is six.”

£130,000 (100%) – Tools for Self-Reliance says this will impact livelihood programming in northern Ghana, an area of high food insecurity and disproportionate poverty levels compared to other areas of the country. “The grant that has been withdrawn represented two years of work in the UK and Ghana, and was based on really strong local need and community engagement,” says their spokesperson.

£124,000 (100%) – Food for the Hungry UK says they are particularly concerned about the broken promises to the community. “The terminations reinforce attitudes that poverty is inevitable and a lack of trust in anyone who might support.”

£114,693 (28%) – Organisation X, which supports people with sight and hearing loss to get better access to education and healthcare, disagrees with FCDO’s “blanket approach” to terminate all UK Aid Direct impact grants, “irrespective of what stage they are at”.

£102,000 (40%) – Bees for Development says their livelihood skills training programme for 540 of the poorest people in Amhara, Ethiopia has been stopped. “This represents a waste of the money invested to date, as well as broken promises and trust. People with disabilities and women who cannot read and write will lose hope of new income streams and the prevailing problem of children working to augment family incomes will continue – instead of going to school.”

£85,000 (n/a) – Organisation X says the FCDO closed their programme working with rural communities in Malawi, most of whom are on $0.65/day. They were delivering a programme that UK Aid had assessed as a top priority.

£50,000 (100%) – Just be a Child says the cancellation means two communities will not be receiving their community library with all the supporting programmes – unless they secure funds from somewhere else. The libraries they build in Kenya cater for more than 1,000 children and provide access to education for all children. “I can understand cuts have to be made, but I do not agree with the way in which this has been done,” their spokesperson says.

£45,000 (100%) – Organisation X had a programme that protected the rights of children and enabled them to grow up healthily. The project improved access to inclusive, quality education to 1,735 children marginalised by ethnicity, gender and/or disability in three rural villages of Laos.”


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