Covid-19 in developing countries: secondary impacts Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

A strategic approach to tackling the secondary impacts of covid-19

1.The reduction of UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) from 0.7% to 0.5% of annual Gross National Income (GNI) from 2021 necessitates an approach which ensures that UK ODA is spent in a more strategic and effective way than ever before. This approach should be reflected in the priorities set and the programmes funded by the FCDO in relation to the secondary impacts of covid-19. Drawing the right lessons from the multiple, significant changes since January 2020 is essential to ensuring an effective, long-term response to the secondary impacts of covid-19. We ask the FCDO to tell us how they or the Government decided on which programmes and themes to prioritise, how they assessed the impact of their decisions to cut funding on recipient countries and populations, and how they intend to strengthen their engagement with NGOs and private suppliers during the implementation of the Government’s announced reduction of UK ODA to 0.5% of GNI. (Paragraph 8)

2.We support the Foreign Secretary’s inclusion of key secondary impacts of covid-19, such as famine, in the new Strategic Framework for UK ODA. However, we are concerned that the framework omits other crucial areas, including an explicit commitment to poverty reduction. (Paragraph 12)

3.To strengthen the UK’s approach to tackling the secondary impacts of covid-19 in developing countries, the FCDO should design, apply and publish a long-term strategy relating to covid-19 by the end of the financial year. It should then revisit its ‘seven global challenges’ outlined in the new Strategic Framework for UK ODA, and provide us with a written assessment of how the framework will deliver this strategy, and how the framework will be amended accordingly if necessary. At a multilateral level, the UK should advocate for a joined-up recovery strategy to the pandemic, including using its presidencies of the G7 and COP26 to demonstrate global leadership in this area. (Paragraph 13)

4.The pandemic is having a particularly detrimental effect upon already vulnerable groups by reinforcing inequalities and discrimination. To counteract this, we recommend that the FCDO take the following steps:

The UK should use this data to inform future decision-making on UK ODA, and thus increase its value for money by enhancing the effectiveness of UK ODA and facilitating transparency in accounting for it. (Paragraph 17)

5.We welcome the Government’s intention to reduce the number of expensive mega-contracts for the delivery of UK-ODA funded projects. To ensure that NGOs are able to continue essential work with vulnerable communities, the FCDO should replenish funds used by NGOs to tackle the impact of covid-19 in place of other activities. Furthermore, the FCDO should ensure that it provides more direct funding for local, frontline NGOs and its partner organisations as part of the greater flexibility in designing projects mentioned in the Foreign Secretary’s letter to us on 2 December 2020. We urge the Government to increase the effectiveness of development programmes by incentivising delivery partners to include local NGOs in the planning, co-ordination and decision-making on the covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, we ask the FCDO to update us on the lessons it learned from its programme “Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) Innovation Labs” which ran from 2014–2019 and aimed at improving responsiveness to communities through direct engagement with local NGOs. (Paragraph 26)

Non-covid related healthcare

6.Covid-19 has affected healthcare systems in developing countries negatively. The urgency with which countries have had to respond has diverted already scarce resources towards covid-related care at the expense of other essential healthcare. This has caused disruption to routine vaccinations and treatments and is storing up years of future problems as well as a potential reversal of hard-won gains in global health. The FCDO should show global leadership in its commitment to global health, as outlined in the Strategic Framework for ODA, through maintaining its existing commitments to routine immunisation programmes and other essential healthcare across developing countries. It should further tell us how it assesses the impact of covid-19 on healthcare and decides to mitigate it. Our interim findings report recommended that the Government should publish a multi-year, cross-departmental global health strategy, to map out how UK policy can deliver a strategic and integrated approach to strengthening global health. In the midst of a pandemic, this is needed more than ever, and we reiterate our previous recommendation. Furthermore, this global health strategy should set out how the UK intends to use levers at multilateral and bilateral levels to achieve its aims, how this ensures progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and how the strategy will reach the most marginalised and vulnerable communities. Whilst we commend the Government’s response to covid-19, we are concerned that several of the measures listed in the FCDO’s submission in October 2020—the £80 million commitment to the Global Financing Facility and the £400 million commitment to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative—pre-date the outbreak of covid-19 and ask the FCDO to provide us with an updated list, which sets out the Government’s funding for healthcare since the outbreak of covid-19. (Paragraph 36)

7.At a time of heightened need, it is more important than ever that healthcare is provided in a way that uses stretched resources as efficiently as possible through integrating responses to multiple health challenges. As part of a global health strategy, the FCDO should work with developing countries to reduce financial barriers to accessing healthcare for communities, prioritising low-cost approaches to lifesaving treatments and incorporating the feedback of communities more effectively into their response. Furthermore, the FCDO should advocate for the integration of the various streams of healthcare provision even more in its work with partner organisations to help accomplish an effective response to other diseases alongside covid-19 during the pandemic. (Paragraph 45)

Economy and livelihoods

8.We welcome the UK’s role in extending the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative to 30 June 2021, the measure to temporarily suspend debt service payments for the poorest countries. As the majority of these outstanding debts are governed by English law, the UK Government is in a unique position to send a global message on debt service payments by suspending or cancelling repayments. We urge the Government to extend the Debt Service Suspension Initiative beyond June 2021 and to use its influence to persuade private lenders to join this scheme. Furthermore, the Government should consider options for the cancellation of debt and provide this Committee with the rationale behind its decisions on debt relief versus debt cancellation for low- and middle-income countries. (Paragraph 51)

9.Livelihoods in developing countries have been devastated by the pandemic. Workers in economically precarious sectors, such as agriculture, are especially vulnerable to the economic shock and instability caused by covid-19. We believe that protecting these jobs is central to enabling people to lift themselves out of poverty. We request that the FCDO write to us on a quarterly basis, outlining how the Government’s economic and trade interventions which form part of the Strategic Framework for ODA will strengthen the economic resilience of low-income groups in developing countries. We ask the Government to fund long-term, multi-year programmes, designed to foster employment opportunities, and ask the FCDO to work closely with recipient countries, aid partners and local NGOs in identifying those activities which have the greatest, long-term beneficial impact on the livelihoods of vulnerable people, and to allocate resources accordingly to support such activities. (Paragraph 62)

10.While we welcome the appointment of a Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs and the £119 million aid package to support food security, we ask the FCDO to update us on a quarterly basis on the performance and achievements of its measures to counter food insecurity. We also recommend that the UK Government renew its nutrition commitments, which expired at the end of 2020, as a matter of urgency. We further ask the Government to expand funding for programmes addressing malnutrition and food insecurity, especially those addressing the issues through cash transfers as they can help different groups to respond effectively to the secondary impacts of covid-19 according to their individual needs. (Paragraph 71)

Women and girls

11.We are concerned by the likely increase in gender inequality following the outbreak of covid-19 and its potential impact upon programmes promoting gender equality. In its response to this report, the FCDO should set out how they have implemented their “Smart Rules”, their operating framework for better and gendered programme delivery. We further recommend that the FCDO refresh DFID’s Strategic Vision for Gender Equality to form a consistent and coherent policy context for all relevant initiatives. In particular, the FCDO should convene an external panel of experts to challenge its performance on the Strategic Vision as announced by its predecessor DFID when it launched the initiative. We further ask the Government to review the role of the Gender Equality Delivery Board in holding the Department to account for the implementation of the Strategic Vision, and to appoint a successor Special Envoy on Gender Equality and align that role with the Strategic Vision and the work of Delivery Board. The Government should further tell us if their covid-19 response incorporates measures to counter the rise in unpaid care by promoting gender-responsive trade and investment policies which protect public investment in childcare, health, education and water and sanitation facilities. (Paragraph 79)

12.Gender-based violence has increased during the pandemic, with the risk especially acute for groups such as adolescents, migrants, refugees and displaced people. At the same time, access to support services has become more difficult. Therefore, it is disappointing that a specific commitment to the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence is absent from the FCDO’s revised framework for UK ODA. We recommend that the FCDO use the UK’s presidency of the G7 and COP 26, as well as its co-presidency of the Generation Equality Action Coalition, to publish a list of objectives which it will seek to achieve in combatting gender-based violence during its tenure and to set out how it will monitor progress on achieving them. It should also ringfence existing funding commitments to projects which seek to tackle gender-based violence. The FCDO should ensure that delivery partners administering programmes against gender-based violence can account for how their work is reaching survivors of gender-based violence and their support systems. (Paragraph 85)

13.Access to sexual and reproductive health services is an essential element of healthcare, providing lifesaving services to women and girls and empowering them to make choices about their futures. The FCDO should publish an assessment of the effectiveness of current UK-funded programmes on the provision of sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries and should ringfence funding for the provision of reversable contraception to women and girls. It should also explicitly integrate the pledge to end preventable deaths of mothers, new-borns and children by 2030 into the list of global challenges in its new Strategic Framework for UK ODA. (Paragraph 90)

14.We welcome the FCDO’s continued commitment to prioritising girls’ education in UK ODA funding. However, we are concerned that the pandemic will push back progress in this area, with rising poverty levels forcing girls out of school and remote teaching techniques unable to reach key cohorts of girls of school age. To ensure that this commitment leads to high-quality education for girls, the FCDO should base future funding decisions upon data disaggregated by gender and age to assess impact. They should further ensure that their measures are adapted sufficiently to support girls who are hard to reach and at risk of leaving education permanently, including through close work with local NGOs to identify effective, local approaches for educating marginalised girls. (Paragraph 97)

Published: 26 January 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement