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International aid charities face losing billions of pounds

14 Apr 2020 News

Development charities face losing billions of pounds as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the aid umbrella body Bond.

Bond estimates that just under £4bn could be at risk, or about 40% of the aid sector’s income.

Development charities are struggling to deal with with high core costs and a substantial drop in fundraising, as well as the need to find extra resources so that existing aid programmes respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

About 60% of the aid organisations surveyed by Bond said they were already cutting back staff both in the UK and overseas.

Oxfam, one of the country’s largest development charities, last month announced plans to furlough more than 1,000 of its workers under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and has recalled some overseas staff back to work in the UK.

Graham MacKay, chief operating officer at Bond, said that the crisis requires a charity sector “that can help prevent the spread of Covid-19 so it doesn’t devastate the lives of people living in cramped refugee camps or impoverished conditions.

“But NGOs can only do this if they are provided with greater flexibility by donors which would allow them to urgently respond to the crisis before the situation deteriorates. Many smaller NGOs, or those with low reserves or unable to furlough staff, also need financial support to avoid further job losses or programme cuts."

Fake news

Several international development charities have launched major fundraising appeals to help them maintain services during the coronavirus crisis.

Save the Children has announced its largest ever global appeal in a bid to raise $100m.

Action Aid has also appealed for more donations, and said that alongside delivering healthcare it will work to combat “the spread of fake news and inaccurate information being circulated about Covid-19” in refugee camps.

Part of the charity’s work in Cox’s Bazaar, the largest refugee camp in the world, includes sharing accurate information about coronavirus through trained health workers, in an effort to combat the spread of potentially damaging rumours about the outbreak and its causes.

Extra government funding

The government announced new funding for UK aid charities this weekend to help fight coronavirus, with the Red Cross the main beneficiary of extra cash.

The Department for International Development (DFID) has released £200m in funding for global development organisations, of which £50m will go to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.

A further £130m will go to United Nations bodies, and £20m will be available to international aid charities, including those based in the UK.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the secretary of state for international development, said that the new funding “will help stop the virus from infecting millions of people in the poorest countries, meaning we can end this global pandemic sooner and prevent future waves of infection coming to the UK”.

DFID has not yet announced how development charities can apply for funds.

Alexander Mattheou, a executive director of international at the British Red Cross, said: “The British Red Cross, part of the global Red Cross movement, is responding right now here in the UK, including supporting our NHS. However, at the end of day, the global response will only be as effective as the weakest health system. We must support the most vulnerable countries now as part of an effort to keep us all safe.”

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