The UK government is facing criticism for abandoning the people of Afghanistan, following a significant decrease in UK aid to the nation, according to a report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI).
The watchdog revealed that humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan is expected to be £100 million in the 2023-24 period, a drastic reduction compared to the £246 million provided in the previous year.
The ICAI’s latest review of UK funding since the Taliban takeover in 2021 highlighted that the sharp decline in aid followed a series of budget cuts and the allocation of a substantial portion of funds to house refugees in the UK. The UK had initially pledged to provide £286 million in aid per year for 2021-22 and 2022-23, positioning itself as an active and significant donor to Afghanistan.
However, the allocation for 2022-23 was later slashed to £246 million, resulting in the suspension or delay of crucial programs such as polio vaccinations and the clearance of landmines and improvised explosive devices, according to the watchdog.
Sir Hugh Bayley, ICAI commissioner and lead author of the report, expressed concern over the situation: “As the humanitarian situation continues to worsen in Afghanistan, and women and girls’ hard-won rights are being lost, we felt it was important to look again at how the UK is supporting the people of Afghanistan through the aid programme.”
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The report also highlighted the absence of a UK diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, which the watchdog argued could undermine the effective management of the UK’s contribution to the international aid response.
Stephanie Draper, chief executive at Bond, the UK network for NGOs, criticized the government’s approach, stating, “The UK is turning its back on the people of Afghanistan, who are facing a worsening humanitarian crisis.”
According to London Evening Standard, Preet Kaur Gill, Labour’s shadow minister for international development, voiced concerns about the report’s implications, stating, “This report paints a stark vision for the future for Afghanistan’s people, and Britain’s waning influence in the world.”
Gill further criticised the government for diverting vital support from Afghan citizens to bolster its asylum system, calling it a betrayal of those who had supported the allied mission in the country.