14th July 2021

Yesterday, the UK government won a vote to keep the budget for international development at 0.5% of national income, down from the 0.7% figure, which was in place until earlier this year. The decision has drawn a furious response, not least from former Prime Ministers John Major and Theresa May, the latter of whom accused the government of ‘turning its back on the poorest in world’.

Responding to the vote, David Jenkins, President of the British Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC), said:

“Aid is vital to the life of many people, ensuring access to food, sanitation, health and education. While we accept that not all aid makes a permanent difference, and that countries have a duty to assess the effectiveness of their aid, this decision by the UK government is nevertheless devastating.

Without financial support, outbreaks of infectious disease are inevitable, especially in low- and middle-income countries, whose economies are already reeling from a pandemic that has hit those poorest hardest.

In other words, this decision will cost lives. Loss of life is irreversible.

Not only is this cut catastrophic at a local level, it also carries grave implications for our global health. The collapse of public health arrangements overseas will increase the spread of antimicrobial resistance, through contamination of food, water and the environment by antibiotic resistant bacteria in human waste. Local spread will inevitably become a regional, then global concern. We know that ‘bugs’ don’t respect borders, and so the UK’s health is irrevocably tied to the health of the rest of the world. As WHO Director Tedros Ghebreyesus memorably said at a recent briefing: ‘No-one is safe until everyone is safe.’ This decision will end up costing far more to control than is saved by a 0.2% reduction in aid.

BSAC strongly believes that these cuts must lead to a serious re-consideration of the longstanding rhetoric to involve civil society organisations in the delivery of global support.

Furthermore, these cuts must lead to a serious consideration of the need for UK government to appoint a Cabinet Minister with the specific responsibility for optimising/coordinating the use of resources to address pandemic prevention and preparedness.

As ever, BSAC stands ready to draw on our fifty years’ of experience in order to help the government deliver support wherever the burden of disease is the greatest.”

GP? Pharmacist? Researcher? Social Scientist? Whatever field you work in, if you’re committed to fighting infection then we want you to join us as a BSAC Member.
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