As the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development (DFID) merge on Wednesday to form the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the UK has committed a new 119 million pound aid package for Africa and other poor countries.
This amount is part of the UK government’s commitment of spending 0.7 per cent of its national income on foreign aid, according to Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Dominic Raab.
The 119 million pound aid will be directed in fighting the threat posed by the coronavirus and hunger which has substantially increased the indirect effect of the pandemic for over six million people in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen.
It will also provide 240,000 people with food for the next three months in the insecurity ravaged Northeast region of Nigeria.
Also, through a new partnership with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), FCDO will also work towards providing life-saving malnutrition to mothers and children, and reduce the rate of child mortality in Nigeria and across Africa.
“Coronavirus and famine threaten millions in some of the world’s poorest countries, and give rise to direct problems that affect the UK, including terrorism and migration flows.
“Great Britain, as a force for good in the world, is leading by example and bringing the international community together to tackle these deadly threats, because it’s the right thing to do and it protects British interests.
“We can only tackle these global challenges by combining our diplomatic strength with our world-leading aid expertise,” Raab added.
He also confirmed appointing former Director-General at DFID, Nick Dyer, as the first special envoy for famine prevention and humanitarian affairs.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing said that the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office would “bring together Britain’s world class development expertise and world class diplomacy”.
“I am very proud to have worked for both DFID and for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and now here in Nigeria where we have such a great long term partnership.
“I am really looking forward to bringing together our diplomacy and development tools even more effectively to grow from strength to strength in Nigeria,” Mrs. Laing added.
But concern has been raised by critics that the new office might weaken the British government’s commitment of spending the 0.7 per cent committed by law for providing foreign aid to pay for defence and intelligence spending.
When Raab was asked if the 0.7 per cent allocation for foreign aid would survive the merger of the two offices, he responded with a wholehearted, “absolutely”.
The UK has so far pledged 774 million pounds of aid in support of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and the people worst affected by it.
The UK foreign secretary also said with the UK now assuming the presidencies of the G7 and the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), it would push other countries to also play a larger role in helping developing countries as they continue to face a number of “devastating challenges”.