Charities blast British aid cut for war-torn Yemen

People displaced by conflict receive food aid from a Kuwaiti charity at a village in Yemen in February 2021. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Over 100 charities including Oxfam and Save the Children hit out Saturday (March 6) at UK's plans to slash by half humanitarian aid to war-torn Yemen, saying it would "destroy" London's image abroad.

Britain pledged 87 million pounds (S$164 million) for Yemen at an international donors' conference this week, about half the amount it offered last year.

The move, which has been condemned across Britain's political spectrum, follows the government's decision last year to cut foreign aid commitment from 0.5 per cent of GDP to 0.7 per cent.

"History will not judge this nation kindly if the government chooses to step away from the people in Yemen and thus destroy the UK's global reputation as a country that steps up to help those most in need," the 101 signatories wrote in an open letter.

The charities called on the government to reinstate the 0.7 per cent commitment to international aid, saying cuts were being made with "no transparency, consultation or meaningful strategy".

Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam chief executive highlighted Britain's decision to continue international arms sales despite criticism from humanitarian organisations and campaigners.

"The UK's refusal to halt arms sales that are fuelling the conflict is immoral," he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended his government's decision to continue selling arms to sell Saudi Arabia, which leads the coalition fighting the Huthi rebels in Yemen, despite a US freeze on its weapons' exports.

A letter leaked to the Open Democracy website has shown Britain will cut foreign aid programmes by more than a half in some of the nations worst-hit by conflict.

The internal discussions show Syria faces a 67 per cent cut in UK aid, Somalia 60 per cent and Sudan 59 per cent.

The UK's Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has refused to comment on the leaked documents but has said the "seismic impact of the pandemic on the has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on aid".

"We are still working through what this means for individual programmes and decisions have not yet been made," the FCDO said.

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