Whenever misleading headlines on international aid predictably rear their heads in the news cycle — always rising above the noise like a gone-off egg — it’s really important that the truth gets its moment, too.
UK aid is the lifesaving money spent by Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) to help the 736 million people around the world who are trapped in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than £1.50 a day.
But a report released Monday by a think tank known for its historical beef with DfID just had another pop at it. Just like the Daily Mail, the Sun, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, it wants to see that budget cut — taking away a life support system for millions of the world’s poorest people.
Straight line:— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) March 18, 2019
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Since 1990, extreme poverty has more than HALVED! Basically, #UKAid works — and we need to do everything possible to defend it 💪 #PartnershipWorkspic.twitter.com/Gw4nOa4ibE
Let’s get technical: There are two main ways UK aid gets to people living in extreme poverty. One is “bilateral aid”, meaning the UK offers support directly to the country in need, like sending expert health workers to fight Ebola in the Congo. The other is “multilateral aid”, defined as cash given to global organisations who can tackle the issues in a number of different countries and therefore could provide a cost-effective, larger scale, long-term approach.
Right now Britain spends 63% of UK aid bilaterally and 37% through multilateral organisations.
It’s the latter that is now under attack. But in terms of the evidence out there, the report is kind of like every cliffhanger from The Bodyguard — it just refuses to tell the whole story.
So we’ll do it for them. Sure, the names aren’t catchy. The acronyms might not exactly roll off the tongue. But here are a few multilateral aid organisations doing amazing jobs on some vital issues — and deserve a bit more love.
1. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
One of the most dangerous global myths that has spiralled out of control recently is that vaccines don’t work. It’s led to a tripling of measles cases in Europe between 2017-18; a ban in Italy on unvaccinated children attending school; a generation of teenagers rebelling against their anti-vaxxer parents and getting jabs behind their backs.
But while the battle against misinformation continues to rage around the world, there’s a multilateral aid organisation that has immunised more than 700 million children since the turn of the millenium.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has prevented 10 million deaths in just 18 years. That in turn has generated $150 billion in economic benefits to countries with healthier citizens — delivering 65 million vaccines in 2017 alone. And UK aid has helped vaccinate 76 million children, saving 1.4 million lives by 2020.
Next year Gavi will bring a conference to London that will ask for more support to continue its work. Watch this space: We’ll be campaigning to make this as big a deal as possible.
💉 700 MILLION children! 💉— Global Citizen Impact (@GlblCtznImpact) December 11, 2018
As @gavi CEO @GaviSeth just pointed out at #GaviMTR, that's equivalent to having immunized every living person in the Middle East & Africa born in the 18 years since Gavi's creation.
But let's not stop there.#GotLife#HealthForAll#BeTheGenerationpic.twitter.com/NmLxW4Uf2Z
2. Global Financing Facility
Not every country is lucky enough to have a National Health Service.
“Every bit as much a wonder of the world as any architectural marvel or any natural miracle,” actor Michael Sheen remarked on the NHS in a 2015 speech in Wales. “A truly monumental vision … a symbol of equality, of fairness, and of compassion.”
But worldwide more than 5 million women, children, and adolescents die every year from preventable conditions across 50 countries. Every day, more than 800 women and girls die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Why? Because global health systems are not quite at the same level.
That’s where the Global Financing Facility (GFF) comes in: a multilateral organisation that aims to save up to 35 million lives a year by helping countries improve their health systems. It focuses on issues like pregnancy and nutrition to give mums and young people the best possible chance to thrive — a vision UK aid invested £50 million in last year.
“I think the most important part is that … these types of basic health expenditures [should not be considered] expenditures,” Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg told Global Citizen at the GFF Replenishment Conference in November. “It’s an investment in your country.”
Norway pledged $360 million to @theGFF at #GlobalCitizen Festival. Today, PM @Erna_Solberg insists we work even harder to change the world.— Global Citizen Impact (@GlblCtznImpact) November 6, 2018
"It's important to continue to ask your governments to have an agenda on @TheGlobalGoals," she says. "There's no corner to hide in." pic.twitter.com/kME4w6DrHj
3. Education Cannot Wait
The news came in while tens of thousands of South Africans were patiently waiting for Beyoncé and JAY-Z to come on stage at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah was hosting the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 — and revealed to the crowd that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had just tweeted him to say his country will help put 340,000 children living through conflict or crisis through school.
It was in response to the actions of over 45,000 Global Citizens, who signed a petition urging Trudeau to commit to Education Cannot Wait (ECW), a multilateral fund that educates children trapped in some of the world’s most difficult environments.
There are an estimated 39 million girls around the world who are not in school due to war, natural disasters, and other emergencies at the moment. ECW empowers these girls to reach their potential with education — and therefore lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. It's backed by UK aid too: a £30 million cash boost in 2016 aimed to deliver a quality education to nearly 1.5 million children in Chad, Syria and Yemen over two years.
“These are global challenges and it’s up to all of us to make sure everyone has the freedom, equality, and opportunities they need to thrive,” Trudeau said. “That means empowering women and girls — and Canada is doing its part.”
“Now get out there and change the world!” he added.
Hey @Trevornoah - thanks for everything you’re doing to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s legacy at the @GlblCtzn festival. Sorry I can’t be with you - but how about Canada pledges $50M to @EduCannotWait to support education for women & girls around the world? Work for you? Let’s do it.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) December 2, 2018
4. Global Polio Eradication Initiative
Many believe that Somalia saw the world’s last case of smallpox in 1977. But while that was the last natural incident, a final contained outbreak followed the next year in Britain’s second largest city.
Janet Parker was exposed to the disease while working at Birmingham Medical School. She was quarantined immediately, and 500 people were given emergency vaccinations. While she lay in hospital, her father suffered a fatal cardiac arrest from stress. A day later, the professor who took responsibility for the outbreak died by suicide. Parker died on Sept. 11, 1978.
And that was the end of smallpox — the first infectious disease that human beings completely eradicated from the face of the planet. Now, there’s a chance to take down a second, and make history.
Polio is caused by a deadly virus that infects the brain and spinal cord, mainly affecting children under five, and often causing paralysis. There is no cure — but it’s been 99.9% eradicated worldwide thanks to the work of multilateral organisations like the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) leading vaccine drives around the world.
There are 16 million people walking today who would otherwise have been paralysed because of GPEI — and 1.5 million people whose lives have been saved.
The story of Janet Parker was a freak accident. But until polio is eradicated as many as 200,000 new cases could occur annually within a decade. That’s why the UK pledged to immunise up to 45 million children against the disease every year until 2020, saving more than 65,000 children from paralysis each year.
5. The Global Fund
When former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan died in August 2018, the world mourned the loss of an astounding leader and lifelong champion of African development.
Annan won a Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work; he shared a stage with Emilie Sandé at Global Citizen Live in April; and in 2002 he kickstarted an ambitious multilateral aid group that aimed to rally the world to fight three diseases: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
“When I first mooted the idea of the Global Fund, people said I was dreaming,” Annan said. “I love dreams. It always starts with a dream.”
It has since saved 26 million lives worldwide. In 2017 alone it distributed 197 million mosquito nets; treated 5 million people with TB; and supported 17.5 million HIV- positive people with antiretroviral therapy — while Britain's investment in the group targeted saving an additional eight million lives from the diseases every year from 2016.
And the dream continues in Lyon this October — where the Global Fund will host an event to fund the fight well into the future, aiming to save an additional 16 million lives over the next three years.
"Inequality is not just about income or wealth, it’s about power. Lasting peace, justice, and well-being for all cannot exist when we are trapped in an unequal system" — @KofiAnnan 👏👏👏 #GlobalCitizenLive⭕ pic.twitter.com/wS7snPblPL— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) April 17, 2018
Global Citizen Prize at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Dec. 13 is the first major event in our 2020 campaign, Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream. The year-long campaign will focus on three crucial areas: the climate crisis, gender equality, and human capital — empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty through access to quality education, nutritious food, and universal health systems. Vaccinations are one of the most effective ways to ensure good health and end preventable deaths, in line with the UN’s Global Goal 3 for health and wellbeing.
Next year will be vital for global health efforts, with the UK set to continue its world-leading efforts on health by hosting a major global conference on vaccines — a replenishment moment for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi’s efforts over the past two decades have already seen more than 700 million children vaccinated, and 10 million lives saved as a result. You can join the movement to end extreme poverty and ensure that everyone has access to vaccines by taking action with us here.