We need your help!

Peter Waddup, CEO, The Leprosy Mission Great Britain

Just before the Covid lockdown in 2020 I visited some of our projects in Bangladesh, and saw so much need. I was happy that we had recently been awarded a UK overseas aid grant to find and cure people affected by leprosy in the slums of Dhaka.

It’s a sad fact that the countries most impacted by the climate crisis are the countries that have contributed the least to this awful reality. In south Bangladesh, as water levels rise and good drinking water becomes salinated, people in their thousands are being driven north to the already crowded slums in Dhaka. This is the perfect breeding ground for diseases, particularly leprosy.

The UK aid funding we had won was a lifeline – with it, we knew we could really make a difference. Alas, when the UK government cut overseas aid from 0.7 to 0.5% of GDP, this project was cancelled at the last minute. While it was awful news for us in our UK office, it was completely devastating for our team and people affected by leprosy in Bangladesh.

I still believe that when those cuts were made, the decision makers didn’t realise that the impact would fall on the many charities serving the poorest people in the world.

While the opposition rightly spoke up against the injustice of these cuts, they too have only committed to increasing overseas aid when fiscal conditions change. Recent budgets have indicated a surprising upturn in the country’s finances, but no one has mentioned a return to the 0.7% target. Sadly, it may not be on the cards for some time. But we cannot stop raising our voices and speaking up for justice! We must continue to call for an overseas aid budget that does right by the world’s most marginalised and vulnerable people.

In the meantime, we can look at how we can spend the 0.5% more wisely. If we truly want to end global poverty, the many amazing charities who serve the poorest communities in the world should now be among the priorities when these precious funds are allocated.

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A general election will soon be on the horizon, and parties are planning their election manifestos. If you agree that the privilege of living in the West places an obligation on us to think of others, will you join us in advocating for those who are so forgotten? When the opportunity arises, please speak to your local candidates, and ask how they will ensure that the overseas aid budget truly serves those who are left the furthest behind.

Thousands of people are impacted by the decisions we as a country make about global development. People who have the same rights, hopes and dreams as you and I. People who deserve the chance to break free of poverty and ill health. It is my prayer that these people will be in the hearts of decision makers this year, so that together we can build a world where everyone can have fullness of life.