In April 2021, the UK government announced cuts to its foreign aid budget by approximately £4bn following commitments made in 2019 to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid.
In a short video, released last week, Labour MP Chris Matheson joins MPs Tobias Ellwood and Andrew Mitchell to highlight their concern about the substantial cuts and the impact it will have on global health generally in a bid to ensure we ‘don’t let disease bounce back’.
Polio survivors from around the country and cross-party parliamentarians pledge their support for the polio programme, which has played a pivotal role in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The programme lent its tools, workforce and surveillance network to help countries respond to the pandemic. This came as agenda priorities for this week’s G7 Summit that took place here in the UK included equitable access to vaccines and the need for global communities to work together to rebuild their health systems.
‘The UK has long supported the global polio programme, which has seen cases decrease by over 99%. We must continue to support global health and ensure we do not inflict damage that could take decades to undo.’
Myra James, a UK Polio survivor who also features in the film, states:
‘I contracted polio in 1953 in the UK and I am extremely disappointed to hear that the commitment made in 2019 to vaccinate 400 million children a year until 2023 against polio has been cut. Especially given that polio resources have been used to support COVID-19 response.’
The UK is a leader in global health and it has been a longstanding supporter of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative which has overseen a 99.9% fall in polio cases globally since it was formed in 1988. The polio programme has already saved more than 18M from paralysis and today, polio remains endemic only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In November 2019, the UK pledged to vaccinate 400 million children a year until 2023 against polio.
Despite the remarkable progress the UK has made, the cuts will undoubtedly jeopardise the prospect of polio eradication. This decision to significantly cut funding has raised a great deal of concern with health programmes and communities around the world who rely heavily on this aid. The UK aid cuts also risk weakening one of the most effective disease surveillance and response networks in the world at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues its devastation.
Despite the successes, challenges to polio eradication efforts such as mobile populations, weak routine immunisations, community refusals, have been exacerbated this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. In recognition of this, committed advocates and parliamentarians have come together to show their support as part of the One Last Push campaign for polio eradication.
Join the campaign at onelastpush.org or donate at endpolio.org/donate.