Robert Ebner-Statt joined us for work experience in July 2021. Along with his cohort, he learnt about global poverty, international development and the workings of a charity, while also supporting our team with various tasks. One of these, a group research project, led Robert to writing this blog about COVID-19 in the UK and abroad, and the recent policy changes to foreign aid here at home:
This week, on the 19th of July, most of the UK’s COVID-19 restrictions are set to be abandoned. This means that compulsory protocols such as social distancing and mask-wearing, which have taken over our lives in the past 16 months, are to become optional. No wonder people are dubbing this occasion ‘Freedom Day’.
However, as we rejoice and begin rebuilding our society post-pandemic, it is crucial that we do not turn a blind-eye to our friends living in extreme-poverty all around the world.
The pandemic has had a particularly detrimental impact in the poorest regions of the world. According to the World Bank, the pandemic led to 97 million more people in poverty in 2020 (as of 24 June, 2021). In 2021, the projection of people in poverty is set to be 711 million, 98 million above pre-pandemic projections (as of 24 June, 2021). In India, one of Tzedek’s focus countries, only 6% of the eligible population are fully vaccinated (as of July 13, 2021) and a third-wave now seems inevitable. As some ongoing development projects in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal were put on hold*, Tzedek has funded lifesaving supplies for hundreds of families within their networks. These supplies include food, masks, sanitiser and soap.
It would be easy to now focus solely on the problems in Britain; our dwindled economy, lack of recent education for children and high unemployment. However, it is important to remember that these issues are commonplace in other areas of the world, even before COVID-19. Our Empowerment for Life programme focuses on education, youth development and livelihoods – aspects of Ghanaian life that have only been made worse due to the pandemic. It is community development programmes like this that will be essential for regions to recover and build their strength and resilience going forward.**
Just this week, the government voted on reducing the annual aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of the UK’s national income. Whilst the government says that this reduction is only temporary, that 0.2% translates to around £4 billion – a colossal amount of money lost for global development at a time when it is needed most.
As life in the UK returns to normal, please consider what normal means for those living in extreme poverty around the world.
* Our development work in India includes vocational training and livelihood projects. When the lockdown started, most had to be put on hold. This was particularly devastating for families who relied on the income from these projects. However, the training they had already received was still of great benefit, and for those on agricultural projects, for example, their livestock acted as a great source of nutrition (such as from milk and eggs) during these difficult times.
**Despite disruptions, the Empowerment for Life programme responded quickly and effectively to the pandemic. In June 2020, the programme donated Tzedek-funded supplies, such as masks, examination gloves and alcohol-based sanitiser to support health facilities in the Tolon and Yoggu areas. The team was also part of the Public Health Emergency Committee on COVID-19 meetings, putting them at the forefront of responding to issues of COVID-19 in the district. Additionally, community and radio sensitisations carried out by our partners were highly successful in the provision of relevant and updated information on preventative measures.