The Government has announced cuts of six per cent, £28 million, in its aid budget to East and Central Africa, even though about 21 million people there are in need of food aid.

The cuts were announced by the Minister for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, who rejoined the Government last year, despite being a critic of the merger of the former Department for International Development and the Foreign Office.

He warned in December that he was having to make drastic cuts in the aid budget, owing to the cost of hosting refugees from Ukraine and elsewhere.

The Africa regional head at CAFOD, Kayode Akintola, said: “The situation in East Africa is as bad as I’ve ever known it. Our partners on the ground are doing everything they can to respond to the crisis, but the need is growing each day.

“The decision to take more money away from people who need our help urgently is shameful. We need the UK to reverse this decision and act to provide proper funding to East Africa before it’s too late.”

In a written statement laid down in Parliament before it broke for Easter, Mr Mitchell said that “difficult choices” had had to be made; “our spending plans have changed.” Funding for East and Central Africa in the current year would be £318.8 million, he announced, making it still the largest recipient of UK overseas aid.

Heavy rains have now fallen on parts of drought-stricken East Africa, resulting in flash floods, as the ground is unable to absorb the water.

Floodwater has killed any remaining livestock which had not succumbed to the extensive drought, Tearfund warns. The charity says that longed-for rains are worsening the situation for many people. In Marsabit, Kenya, one of the regions worst affected, four-fifths of livestock have already died from the drought.

Tearfund’s disaster-response lead, Elizabeth Myendo, said: “They have caused flash floods in most places that have not had rain for more than four successive years, and are leading to more livestock deaths, in addition to deaths resulting from the drought. Unfortunately, we cannot say that the rain will improve the hunger crisis in the region.

“We have been waiting and praying for a breakthrough in this intense period of drought, but now that the rain is here, people are facing new challenges. The ground was so parched that it has been unable to absorb the run-off water. More than 800 households have been displaced by floodwater, and many roads made impassable. The few remaining livestock weakened by the prolonged drought have also been killed in the floods.

‘When the rains come after a prolonged dry period, worms emerge from underground where they have been hibernating. When livestock feed on these worms, they die. In one of the villages in northern Kenya, one person lost 100 cows overnight. Pastoralist communities depend on their livestock as their only source of livelihood and for economic security. In this regard, losing a herd is both financial ruin and extremely difficult psychologically.”

Source : Church Times

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