Development experts and critics who spoke to the Guardian have called for a “global reset” of an aid industry they say is outdated and already facing pressure to reform.
This year one in every 33 people across the world will need humanitarian assistance. That is a rise of 40% from last year, according to the UN. More than half of the countries requiring aid to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic are already in protracted crises, coping with conflict or natural disasters.
Even before Covid-19 threw decades of progress on extreme poverty, healthcare and education into reverse, aid budgets were heading in the wrong direction. In 2020, the UN had just 48% of its $38.5bn (£28bn) in funding appeals met, compared with 63% of $29bn sought in 2019.
The UK’s cuts to aid alone, from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income, are projected by aid groups and MPs to result in 100,000 deaths, 1 million girls leaving school and 5.6 million children going unvaccinated.
“Need is outstripping funding,” said Angus Urquhart, crisis and humanitarian lead at Development Initiatives. “We’re seeing a perfect storm gathering.”
Britiain’s prime minister has been urged to act after two more MPs in his party have been linked to figures spreading Covid conspiracy theories or making discredited claims.
Last week, it emerged that Desmond Swayne, a former Conservative minister, encouraged anti-lockdown street protesters to “persist” and suggested NHS capacity figures were being “manipulated” to exaggerate the impact of the virus.
Questions are now being asked about the judgment of a further two MPs: Andrew Bridgen – who defended Swayne during an interview on YouTube of a controversial former BBC journalist whose posts have been taken down for spreading false information about Covid – and Adam Afriyie, the MP for Windsor.
It comes as the government is battling against baseless online conspiracy theories and misinformation.
The latest cases prompted the deputy leader of the opposition Labour party, Angela Rayner, to call on the prime minister to “wake up” to the threat of disinformation and conspiracy theories being legitimised or perpetuated from within his party’s ranks.
Von der Leyen: EU should have “thought more” about vaccine production
The UK is a “speedboat” while the European Union is a more cumbersome ship, Ursula von der Leyen has said in defence of the vaccine shortages in the bloc.
In an interview with various newspapers, the European commission president said the bloc should also prepare itself for further “obstacles” and “production problems” and even “shortages” of components.
She said: “In Europe, we aim for 70% of the adult population to be vaccinated before the end of the summer. It’s not nothing … there will certainly be other obstacles, other problems in production. We must also be prepared for possible shortages of raw materials or of certain components of the vaccines.”
She added that “looking in the rearview mirror”, the EU should have thought more about mass production and the challenges it poses. “We should have warned, explaining that at the beginning, the process would not be smooth, that there would be ups and downs,” she said.
She continued: “Alone, a country can be a speedboat, while the EU is more like a ship. Before concluding a contract … the 27 member states had five full days to say whether they agreed or not. This naturally delays the process … The United Kingdom has chosen the path of emergency marketing authorisations, we have chosen another.”
Good morning from London, on a day when new battles are looming over when the UK’s lockdown should be lifted amid some indications that the rate of Covid-19 has been dropping.
This is Ben Quinn picking up the blog now as a focus also continues to fall on the question of restrictions on incoming travel after it was disclosed new coronavirus quarantine hotels intended for quarantine will not come into force until mid-February.
As cases fall, a former minister for Britain’s health system has meanwhile told the Guardian that the government should take a cautious approach to lifting lockdown in England so that new coronavirus cases can be driven down to a manageable level of 1,000 a day.
Jeremy Hunt, who is the chair of the health select committee, said the government should aim at suppressing Covid sufficiently to make a South Korean-style approach of intensive contact tracing possible.
Looking at some of the events in the hours ahead, they include:
- The results of a weekly Covid-19 “social impact survey” by Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) at 9.30pm (local time).
- The results of an ONS infection survey at noon.
- French president Emmanuel Macron and the German chancellor Angela Merkel will hold a virtual news conference after meeting.
The Covid crisis dominates the British press this morning, with some signs of optimism coming through. “Return of sport and socialising outdoors,” says the Times, while the Mail reckons “Most Covid curbs ‘to end in May’”. In Scotland, the Press & Journal reports on lower case rates: “At last there’s a ray of sunshine in Covid battle.” The Express sees optimism in the economy – “Shot in the arm for Britain plc” – and the Mirror has “Delivery of hope” about its campaign for school supplies. The Guardian leads with our exclusive on Jeremy Hunt’s warning about lockdown: “Hunt: Don’t end lockdown until Covid cases fall to 1,000 a day,” while the Telegraph says “Ministers requisition 28,000 quarantine hotel rooms.”
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