The pandemic has made us so much more neighbourly …
… or has it? Perhaps it depends who we think of as neighbours! A famous question rings down the ages – ‘Who is my neighbour?’
We live on a pretty small planet. Far-off countries come nightly into our living rooms – no longer do we know nothing about them. We know that in Yemen, a civil war has decimated health systems, provoked widespread hunger, and killed almost 250,000 people. It’s a conflict that requires immediate aid. In Syria over 11 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Both war-torn countries are on the brink of severe famine. So is the Sahel region of Africa, and Southern Sudan. Two of the world’s most fragile regions. No wonder the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) is appealing urgently.
But as a country we – the UK – have just halved our aid to the Yemen and South Sudan. UK aid to Syria will be cut by 67%. Humanitarian support for the Sahel is to be cut by 93%. It looks as if we might slash even more support for the world’s most unstable crises in the coming weeks and months. However we view it, the impact of the government’s cuts (hopefully temporary?) to the UK Aid budget is becoming obvious. These cuts will cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Yes – we have a proud record of international aid. Quite apart from moral, humanitarian considerations, it’s actually ‘soft diplomacy’, and a major investment in world peace. Total aid spending is already less than 1% of the UK’s gross national income. In the lead up to the last election, all parties committed themselves to 0.7%. The pandemic has of course made things desperately worse for us economically. But if it’s bad for us – how bad can it be for such countries as Syria, Yemen, South Sudan? Last autumn, the Chancellor backtracked on the promise, and we are now seeing the consequences. While these cuts will make little difference to the UK public, they will devastate the poorest people in the world.
We care. Perhaps you do too?
We care. Perhaps you do too? We know many people who do… Of course, if we can afford it, we can increase our personal support for the charities that work in the poorest countries.
We probably all have our own favourites. Ours is Christian Aid because of its Christian principles, its links to churches here and abroad, its commitment to helping poor and disadvantaged people of whatever faith or none, and its working with communities on the ground.
Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC)
There’s also the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) which is a consortium of 14 Aid Charities (including Christian Aid) that come together for awareness – and fund-raising for really big disasters – as now. Money goes to the charities that are most able to help in a particular region. But we have to recognise that the Government cuts are going to bite deep.
Whoever we voted for, we have a right to question a government that appears to depart from its promises. There are various options. One is to stay informed:
- Bond – UK network for organisations working in international development.
- One.Org: ONE is a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030.
- Global Citizen: To build a movement of 100M action-taking Global Citizens to help achieve our vision of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
- And/or lobby our MPs or others in Parliament.
- Winchester and Chandler’s Ford (Cons): Steve Brine : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Eastleigh (Cons): Paul Holmes: email@example.com
- Romsey and Southampton North (Cons): Caroline Nokes : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Southampton, Test (Labour): Dr Alan Whitehead: email@example.com
After all, who is my neighbour? Ah! – that was the question Jesus answered wasn’t it?
Written by Peter & Maggie Lippiett