Sightsavers blog

UK aid: The right support is vital in the fight against global poverty

Dominic Haslam, August 2016
A close up of a woman stands and talks in the middle of a group of people.

“The UK has always been at the forefront of the campaign to end world poverty”

The future of the UK government’s commitment to development aid rests in the hands of the new appointments within the Department for International Development (DFID).

The continued commitment to spend 0.7% GNI on aid by the new Secretary of State, Priti Patel, is welcome and will have a huge and ongoing impact on some of the world’s most marginalised people, including people with disabilities.

The reaffirmed commitment to spending on aid demonstrates DFID’s continued dedication to fighting poverty. The UK has always been at the forefront of the campaign to end world poverty and further international development. Now more than ever, it’s a crucial part of its global reputation. We know that the right support can set people with disabilities and their families on the path to a brighter, more self-sufficient future, as well as alleviating suffering in the short term where needed.

What really counts is that the budget is spent on a good quality, evidence-based approach able to demonstrate positive change. Sightsavers has shown this is possible. Our integrated neglected tropical disease (NTD) programme in Nigeria, funded by DFID and led by Sightsavers as part of a broad consortium, is strengthening the capacity of Nigeria’s national disease programme and increasing the availability of treatment for seven NTDs. The consortium includes private sector organisations, academic institutions, NGOs and the Nigerian Ministry of Health. By August 2016, the programme had already delivered over 43 million treatments.

The Coordinated Approach to Community Health (CATCH) project, funded by UK Aid, is another example of the impact that coordinated aid spending has. Eye camps originally designed for patients with blinding trachoma are being adapted to screen, treat (where possible) or refer patients who turn up with cataracts or other eye conditions. Funding is also strengthening local health facilities with equipment, consumables, skills and expertise. This has already led to 1,273 people receiving sight-restoring cataract surgery. That’s over a thousand people who would otherwise have faced the progressive loss of their sight, their income and often their independence.

These projects were all achieved with the help of UK government aid as part of the 0.7% GNI commitment. They show that aid is effective. That aid works. The UK has always been at the forefront of the campaign to end world poverty and to further international development. Now more than ever, it’s a crucial part of the UK’s global reputation and influence. This is a legacy we can all be proud of, and should endeavour to maintain.

This post is in response to an interview given by Priti Patel (Secretary of State for International Development) to Indian publication First Post on 17 August 2016, on the UK government’s 0.7% aid spending commitment.

By Dom Haslam, Sightsavers’ Director of Policy and Programme Strategy

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