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Extreme poverty: A girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than finish secondary school

13 December 2022

Reprioritising UK aid spending to focus on ending extreme poverty is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do, urge MPs on the International Development Committee, who say the elimination of extreme poverty is vital to security and prosperity across the world. 

In a new report, Extreme poverty and the Sustainable Development Goals, the Committee points to the combined impacts of conflict, covid-19 and climate change which are playing out in the world’s poorest countries with dire consequences but with reduced funding from the UK’s aid budget, Official Development Assistance. 

In the context of the UK Government’s reduction to spending on UK aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of the UK’s Gross National Income, it is more important than ever to ensure the funding is targeted as effectively as possible, say MPs.  

‘Leave no one behind’ is the central pledge of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Goals, compelling UN Member States to reach ‘the poorest of the poor’ and to tackle discrimination and rising inequalities and their root causes. Despite being a driver for the policy, the UK’s development sector is unsure whether the pledge is a priority for the merged Foreign Office and Department for International Development.  

The Committee heard that the most marginalised groups are disproportionately likely to be impacted by poverty. Evidence revealed the impact of extreme poverty on girls in South Sudan, who are more likely to die in childbirth than finish secondary school; that people with disabilities are more likely to die in a natural disaster than people without; and how, in a large majority of low-income countries, many children miss vital education simply because they don’t have access to glasses.  

Today’s report calls on the Foreign and Development Office to reaffirm its commitment to the ‘Leave No One Behind’ agenda, including achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.  The alleviation of poverty must be the primary priority for determining spending. While Government should spend half of the UK’s ODA budget in fragile states and regions, all UK aid must have a measurable effect on poverty. 

Chair's comment 

The Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP, said: 

“Cutting the Official Development Assistance budget has damaged the UK’s reputation as a development leader. Decades of progress to eliminate extreme poverty around the world – recognised as one of the most successful stories in international development — are at risk.  

“The Minister for Development, Andrew Mitchell MP, recently told us that covid-19 has increased the number of people in extreme poverty by 70 million. He also acknowledged that the UK is no longer a ‘development superpower’. Our overwhelming impression is that the Government has left its poverty pledge behind.   

“Words and actions matter – funding programmes that may contribute to foreign policy objectives but do not impact levels of poverty, should not attract ODA funding. Money is tight and people are precious. Health, education, social protection, climate adaptation: UK aid must be spent in the most effective way with demonstrable impact.”  

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Image: Flickr