Greater than £100 million has been misplaced from the UK’s overseas assist price range after the federal government determined to monetise its vaccine donations, new figures present.
The 30m surplus jabs donated by Britain to poorer nations in 2021 have been valued at £108.4m and counted in direction of abroad spending on assist, in response to the Organisation for Financial Co-operation and Growth (OECD).
Campaigners say this cash ought to have remained reserved for the financial improvement and welfare of low-income nations, and that Britain’s surplus vaccines – which had been by no means supposed for poorer nations – ought to have been donated with out consuming into overseas assist funding, often known as Official Growth Help (ODA).
A complete of £4.6 billion was reduce from the UK’s assist price range all through 2021, in response to figures from the International, Commonwealth & Growth Workplace (FCDO). It comes after ministers diminished ODA from 0.7 per cent of gross nationwide earnings to 0.5 per cent. In complete, £11.5bn was spent on ODA final yr.
Of the £108.4m that has been counted in direction of the overseas assist price range, this consists of £3m spent on the precise logistics of distributing 30m doses to the world’s poorest nations, the OECD knowledge confirmed.
Well being teams have criticised the federal government for utilizing its vaccine donations to cut back overseas assist spending after the nation raced to safe its provides at the start of the pandemic – to the detriment of lower-income nations.
Thus far, some 10bn doses have been distributed worldwide, however just one per cent have been administered in low-income nations, in response to a examine by the UN Growth Programme. These nations embrace Haiti, Yemen, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Simon Starling, director of coverage, advocacy and analysis at Bond, a UK community of worldwide improvement NGOs, mentioned: “By hoarding Covid-19 vaccines and blocking entry for low-income nations, the UK is prolonging the pandemic … Taking extra vaccine doses from the ODA price range now provides insult to damage.
“The UK ought to take the ethical choice to make vaccine sharing further to the UK assist price range and prioritise ODA funding to these most in want.”
Outcomes UK, an advocacy organisation specialising in international well being, mentioned the “place is indefensible, particularly given the gross disparity in vaccine entry we’re seeing all over the world right this moment.”
Aaron Oxley, govt director, mentioned: “The UK’s assist price range has already been slashed, and but inside this shrunken price range, the federal government is selecting to return on its phrase and reduce additional with a view to reallocate vaccines we already purchased for our personal use as assist as an alternative.
“Whereas vaccine donations are a method of addressing the massive vaccine inequality generated by wealthy nations’ aggressive techniques of shopping for up early vaccine manufacturing, addressing this should not result in cuts in different crucial improvement programmes.
“This isn’t a simply answer to the issue of getting purchased much more vaccine doses than we are able to probably use.”
Affirmation that the UK’s vaccine donations had been monetised to assist meet the nation’s 0.5 per cent assist goal comes from the OECD, an intergovernmental financial physique, made up of 38 nations, that agrees overseas assist standards.
The OECD was liable for setting steering earlier within the yr that allowed its member nations, that are predominantly high-income, to report their donations of extra vaccines as overseas assist, and at a worth of £5.16 per dose.
Final month, a UK spokesperson mentioned that the federal government was nonetheless contemplating the OECD’s steering on tips on how to worth its donated Covid vaccines in 2021, the overwhelming majority of which had been AstraZeneca.
Nonetheless, throughout a briefing on Tuesday, the OECD mentioned it might “verify and assure” that members, together with the UK, had not valued their donated doses for 2021 at the next worth than what they paid for his or her provides.
Layla Moran MP, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for overseas affairs and worldwide improvement, mentioned it was “condemnable” that the federal government was “exploiting a technicality and counting donated doses in direction of the worldwide assist goal.”
“The overseas secretary should instantly change method. At a time when we face humanitarian crises, the 0.7 per cent of GNI goal for worldwide improvement spending must be restored.”
Not all members of the OECD have reported donated vaccines as overseas assist, together with Australia, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
In a joint investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Impartial, the Netherlands mentioned that “relabelling” donated vaccines as overseas assist might scale back a rustic’s spending on abroad improvement.
The OECD’s new knowledge launch additionally confirms that the UK was an outlier in its choice to cut back improvement funding throughout the pandemic. The vast majority of members elevated their ODA contributions final yr, whereas Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden all spent 0.7 per cent or extra of their GNI on overseas assist, assembly a goal set by the UN.
The Impartial has approached the FCDO for remark.