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Aid cuts are hitting victims of tropical diseases, bishop tells Lords

15 July 2022


BRITISH parents would be “rightly outraged” if their children were being infected with parasites that could be treated for as little as 50p a time — yet, thanks to cuts in the aid budget, this was happening the developing world, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, told the House of Lords last week.

Dr Smith said that the real danger, as people faced starvation, shortages, famine, and neglected tropical diseases, was that they potentially face mass migrations. “It really makes sense for us to think about how we can make improvements in these other parts of the world.”

In a debate on what assessment the Government has made of the effect of aid cuts on the global control of malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), he said that it would be more apt to call them “tropical diseases of neglected peoples”, given the global economic status of their victims.

Typically, many victims were children who would normally receive de-worming treatments at school, but a foreign-aid budget cut of £150 million, and school closures during Covid lockdowns, meant that treatment programmes were seriously disrupted.

The delays affected efforts to improve education and general public health, which ultimately lifted people out of poverty, Dr Smith said. “The point about treating NTDs, especially parasites, is that by building the delivery infrastructure, such as schools, as well as better sanitary facilities to prevent infection in the first place, we are investing in the human capital of these nations.”

He told peers that his own diocese was seeking to boost supplies in northern Mozambique, but, despite all their voluntary efforts, it would not be enough without government help. “That is what we need urgently. Foreign aid is an undeniable moral good, especially when we consider our good fortune in not being plagued by these diseases. The Covid pandemic has set back efforts to tackle NTDs, which makes it more important than ever to see what we can do to help these countries, which will also benefit us as being the right thing to do.”

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