UNICEF warns of ‘serious consequences’ for children if UK cuts funding

The United Nations children’s agency has warned of “serious consequences” for vulnerable infants around the world after learning that the UK plans to shrink its core funding by around 60%.

Such funding enabled UNICEF to respond swiftly to the most pressing “education, protection and health needs” of children impacted by the coronavirus pandemic last year, the organisation said in a statement published on its website.

“Any cuts to these funds will have serious consequences for children,” it said.

UNICEF said the UK government had informed it of the planned reduction in funding on Friday.

“We are deeply concerned by this decision,” the agency said.

UNICEF expects to receive £16 million in core funding from the UK this year, down from £40 million in 2020. It also fears further cuts to other parts of its budget that have yet to be announced.

The cuts are part of a move by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to axe more than £4 billion from its annual overseas aid budget following a decision by the government to reduce an aid-spending target to 0.5% of national income from 0.7%.

Many charities and UN agencies are being affected, with the real-world impact on lifesaving programmes to counter health, education and development emergencies in the poorest parts of the world slowly emerging.

The UN agency said in its statement: “It is too soon to know the full impact that this and future UK funding cuts will have on UNICEF programmes. However, we worry that children living in some of the world’s worst crises and conflicts will suffer the consequences.”

The UK has been an important long-term partner for UNICEF’s work around the world, helping to save and improve the lives of millions of vulnerable children and providing them with access to critical water, sanitation, education and health services.

“While we recognise the challenging financial situation currently facing governments, the needs of children have never been greater and it’s vital that this support is sustained in a context where COVID-19 threatens to reverse the gains we have made over the years,” the UN agency said.

“We continue to engage with the UK Government on our shared agenda for children worldwide and trust that the government will meet its commitment to reinstate the 0.7% GNI aid spending target as soon as possible.”

UNICEF said that core funding enables the agency “to be present on the ground before, during and after emergencies, allowing us to direct resources for children where they are most needed”.

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