UK aid will protect the British public and help prevent a second wave of coronavirus coming to the UK by slowing its spread in the most vulnerable countries, International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan announced on Tuesday.
A package of £200 million will back UK charities and international organisations to help reduce mass infections in developing countries which often lack the healthcare systems to track and halt the virus.
Tuesday’s announcement brings the total amount of UK aid committed to the global fight against coronavirus to £744 million, making the UK one of the biggest donors to the international response.
Health experts have identified the weakness of developing countries’ healthcare systems as one of the biggest risks to the global spread of the virus.
They have also warned that if coronavirus is left to spread in developing countries, this could lead to the virus re-emerging in the UK later in the year and put further pressure on our NHS.
The new UK aid announced Tuesday includes £130 million for UN agencies in response to their urgent appeal for support.
Of this, £65 million will go to the World Health Organization (WHO) which is coordinating international efforts to end the pandemic sooner.
UK funding for the WHO will help provide more accurate assessments of how the pandemic is progressing around the world, allowing support to be targeted where it will save the most lives and stop the outbreak sooner, and helping countries respond to the virus.
The pandemic is particularly dangerous for countries with weak health systems who are already struggling to fight preventable diseases. In Yemen, 80 per cent of the population are already in need of humanitarian assistance and only about 50 per cent of health facilities are operational.
In Asia, Bangladesh hosts 850,000 Rohingya refugees, many in crowded and unsanitary camps where disease could take hold rapidly.
These countries will be hard hit by lockdowns and disruptions to the supply of goods and services. UK aid will help to mitigate these conditions and support those already living in desperate situations.
“The funding will also help developing countries to rapidly identify and care for patients with symptoms in order to limit human-to-human transmission. Our investment will help install new hand-washing stations and isolation and treatment centres in refugee camps, and increase access to clean water for those living in areas of armed conflict,” UK aid said in a statement.
A further £50 million of the £200 million package will support the Red Cross in difficult to reach areas such as those suffering from armed conflict.
A final £20 million will go to NGOs, including UK charities which are using British expertise and experience to deal with coronavirus.
Pioneering British scientists and researchers like those at Oxford University and at Mologic, based in Bedford, are already at the forefront of the global race to find a coronavirus vaccine and stop its spread, including within the UK.
The UK has already committed £250 million of aid to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to rapidly develop a coronavirus vaccine, the biggest donation of any country.
“Thanks to this investment, future vaccines will be made available at the lowest possible price to the NHS and other countries’ healthcare systems,” UK aid concluded.