Dozens of Small UK Charities Working in World’s Poorest Countries Under Threat of Closure
Some 45% said they may need to shut within a year due to COVID-19.
Nearly half of the UK’s small international development charities, which support some of the world’s poorest communities, face the threat of imminent closure due to a rapid decline of funding opportunities, a survey has revealed.
The Small International Development Charities Network (SIDCN) — an association representing the sector — found that of the 53 organisations they surveyed in June, 45% were forecast to close within a year, including 15% that expected to close within six months.
This is despite the fact that the vast majority of the nonprofits surveyed — 72% — found demand for their services was going up during the pandemic. Meanwhile 66% said they were responding to the COVID-19 pandemic directly in their work overseas.
Charities defined as “small” by the network have an annual income of between £5,000 and £1 million, and fewer than 100 staff either working full-time or part-time, the report says. In fact, the organisations featured have an average of just six full-time workers.
Many deliver small-scale, targeted projects and programmes, embedded in communities in the world’s poorest countries. For example, the UK-registered charity East African Playgrounds has seen “95% of [its] funding disappear overnight”, its chief executive Murielle Maupoint told Third Sector magazine on Aug. 4.
The small nonprofit provides playgrounds and play activity programmes for disadvantaged children in Uganda and employs over 80 young people in the country.
Meanwhile another organisation, African Initiatives, which runs girls education and public health projects in northern Tanzania, has already announced that it is closing in 2021.
The network of charities cite some of the issues faced so far, such as: not being able to run events to generate income; reduced donor income coupled with higher demand; difficulties working remotely when offices closed during lockdowns; having to furlough staff; and having to use savings to survive.
Only 4% of the responding charities said they had been eligible for government support to keep going.
Zoe Kelland, Global Citizen’s Director of Digital Campaigns, who also co-founded the Nakuru Children’s Project, a small NGO in Kenya that works in partnership with local educators, explained the kind of problems organisations face.
“For small organisations, the loss of one or two fundraising events can have a huge impact upon the programmes they're able to run, and the number of people they're able to help,” she said.
“We were set to have a team of people running the Bristol 10k for Nakuru Children's Project in May, aiming to raise around £3,000,” she continued. “The money would have provided more than 7,600 free school meals to kids in Kenya but the event was obviously cancelled.”
She highlighted that, at the same time, her colleagues in Kenya are “witnessing shocking new levels of poverty and hunger, with reports that some of the children we support are at risk of being abandoned by their families, who simply don’t know how to keep putting food on the table under the current pandemic restrictions.”
“Our community has been incredible in rallying around to support emergency COVID-19 response efforts, but for many organisations this won't be the case,” she added. “It's incredibly sad to think of the amazing organisations that could be lost, just when communities need them most."
Speaking to Third Sector, the SIDCN cited the upcoming merger between the Department of International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and a recent cut to the aid budget of £2.9 billion, as other factors causing financial instability.
The network said the cuts were “a blow to these important charities, and the hundreds of thousands they serve.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Olivia Barker-White, the chief executive of Uganda-based organisation Kids Club Kampala, gave examples of how they adapted their work and were ramping up support during the pandemic.
That has included converting their classrooms into food banks and keeping 27,821 households fed with more than 600,000 food parcels, leading to the Ugandan government asking them to expand.
“There has never been a greater need in Kampala for our services,” Barker-White said. “We desperately need to raise more funds to ensure we can provide support to those who need it most.”
A spokesperson for the SIDCN said: “Small UK charities working overseas are a forgotten group.”
“They are supporting some of the world’s poorest communities during this crisis, and will be needed well beyond to aid recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction,” they added. “These charities need funding as a matter of urgency — so that vulnerable communities are not left behind.”
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