With the sharp spread of the Coronavirus across countries and continents, there can be no doubt that it represents one of the biggest challenges of this century. But while much of the focus now will be on whether our brightest minds can find a cure, few realise just how important UK aid will be in enabling the global response to the virus, and ultimately saving hundreds of thousands lives.
Nowhere is this clearer in recent memory than in our response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. When the disease broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo we were one of the first responders, and our aid budget played a key role in helping to slow down the spread of the virus. The UK made the largest donation to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance which developed the vaccine in the DRC that turned around the crisis, and we were the second largest contributor to the World Health Organisation’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies.
Our financial commitment - alongside the expertise of our nurses and armed forces personnel - prevented the crisis from getting out of control, helped save countless lives and stopped the disease spreading closer to our own shores.
We should be incredibly proud of the leading role UK aid played in combating the spread of Ebola. Our willingness to commit people and resources to help others in their time of need is a reflection of the values we hold as a nation. As a member of the International Development Select Committee, it is these same values which I believe makes this country great. The Britain that the international community admires is one that stands tall, takes the lead in tackling global issues and reaffirms our commitment to others during times of adversity.
UK aid is helping to make the world a healthier, safer and more prosperous place. And it is this duty of care to our neighbours that must shape our response to the current crisis.
With the coronavirus a stark reminder that diseases do not respect national borders, this is both the right thing to do and firmly in the national interest. This is why I welcome the announcement in the Budget that the Government will be committing £150 million to the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, which provides support to the poorest countries hit by public health crises.
I have seen first hand the remarkable impact our aid budget can have in fighting the spread of diseases. I want to see the UK play a leading role in the global response to the spread of coronavirus, and our commitment to the 0.7% target sends a clear message to our global partners that we stand ready to tackle this new global health crisis.
Theodora Clarke, Conservative MP for Stafford