UK Pledges $1.19 Billion to Fight Diseases in Poor Countries

Health & Wellbeing

Britain announced on Monday that it would contribute $1.19 billion over three years to combat H.I.V., tuberculosis and malaria across the world, about half the amount aid organizations had hoped for and more than a month after other Group of 7 nations had pledged their support.

Once a leading donor to poor nations, Britain has slashed foreign aid contributions since 2020, jeopardizing efforts to tackle infectious diseases, famine, climate change and girls’ education.

The country’s new pledge is to the Global Fund, which finances the majority of campaigns against H.I.V., malaria and tuberculosis. The three diseases together kill nearly three million people each year, and the Covid-19 pandemic has derailed decades of progress against them.

“The U.K. and others founded the Global Fund because we refused to accept the loss of millions of lives every year to preventable and treatable diseases,” Andrew Mitchell, Britain’s minister for development, said in a statement.

Britain was the second largest donor to the Global Fund. But since 2020, the country has cut its contribution to human rights work by 80 percent, funds for some global health programs by more than 80 percent and humanitarian aid to Yemen, Syria and other nations by 60 percent.

By its own estimate, the Global Fund has saved 50 million lives since its launch in 2001. With $18 billion from donor countries, it could save another 20 million lives over the next three years, according to the fund’s executive director, Peter Sands.

G7 member nations gathered in New York in September and pledged a combined $14.25 billion, but Britain and Italy were notably absent. Britain’s deepening economic crisis had some experts worried that the country would contribute little or nothing to the Global Fund.

“Given the very challenging context, we are enormously appreciative of this strong pledge,” Mr. Sands said. Still, the amount is far short of the $2.15 billion requested from Britain and even less than the $1.68 billion contributed in the 2019 funding round.

The requested amount is about .06 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, noted Mike Podmore, the executive director of StopAids, a health and human rights advocacy group based in Britain.

“Without returning the aid budget to its former size, the U.K. will not be able to effectively respond to the global crises we are facing today,” he said. “The global reputation of the U.K. as a leader in international development and global health is also at stake.”

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