26 November 2021 – today’s press release

Government must reverse £30m aid cuts to Southern Africa to help tackle new variant

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that the government reverse aid cuts and launch an emergency Covid support fund, to help countries in Southern Africa contain the new variant spreading there.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats has found that the UK is slashing aid to Southern Africa and Zimbabwe by £30m next year, or by over a third (35%), a move the party described as “cruel and short-sighted.” In addition to this, UK aid spending on global health funding has been slashed by £243 million, from over £1.1 billion to 915 million, a 21% drop.

The proposed package would include:

  • Immediately reversing UK aid cuts to Southern African countries and global health funding, with a focus on supporting local healthcare systems
  • Setting up and improving systems to track and sequence variants in the region
  • Donating vaccine doses and boosters to help rapidly increase vaccination rates, particularly among vulnerable people

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

Countries in Southern Africa need an emergency package of support to help contain this outbreak, track the new variant and vaccinate vulnerable populations.

We cannot simply pull up the drawbridge and hope this problem goes away. The government has both a moral duty and pragmatic interest in helping countries in Southern Africa and beyond contain the threat posed by this new Covid variant before it arrives on our shores.

The Conservatives must begin by immediately reversing their cruel and short-sighted aid cuts to the region that have left healthcare systems teetering on the edge of collapse.

The emergence of this variant is also a stark reminder of the existential threat posed to our own recovery by the West’s collective failure to help vaccinate the world. Ministers must lead by example and stop dragging their heels when it comes to donating jabs to COVAX, or this alarming new variant risks being just the first of many.