A statement from our Trustees, May 3rd. 2021 

Sadly we have been notified by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) that they have had to make the difficult decision to not progress with the latest round of the Small Charities Challenge Fund. For WATSAN this means that our ongoing application for a grant will not be progressed. After a long time, and not a little effort by our Trustees, WATSAN had reached the short list for this round of grants, with an application for a grant for a community project to serve some of the poorest people in a remote part of Kanungu District (Kinkiizi Diocese), not far from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This is at a time when we have all had drummed into us that clean water and sanitation are the first line of defence against Covid-19, and the UK Government continues to promote hand-washing as one of the most important ways of protecting ourselves from viral infection. Without convenient access to clean water, this cannot happen in poorer communities across the world. Neither will it happen where communities lack basic health and hygiene knowledge. Clean water and health education, as well as sanitation improvements, are key components of all our projects. Now we are told that, along with many others in the water sector, they will not be funded. For the almost 30% cut in the UK aid budget has resulted in a cut of some 80% in the support for these categories of aid projects compared to 2019.

There is widespread concern in the charity sector and amongst MPs of all parties at this swingeing cut to this aspect of the aid programme at time when Covid 19 remains a serious threat or potential threat in many parts of the world, including Uganda. 200 charities have said in a joint statement that cuts to humanitarian aid by the UK were a “tragic blow for many of the world’s most marginalised people”. Andrew Mitchell, the former international development secretary has said: “Access to water and sanitation is consistently the UK public’s top priority when polled about what aid should be spent on… “We are balancing the books on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world and it is a matter of national shame for our country to be slashing spending in this way.”

It has been pointed out that the figure of 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) directed to foreign aid is enshrined in law, but its reduction to 0.5% is being implemented across the aid programme without any reference to Parliament to date. That would appear to make its implementation unlawful. We strongly support representations which are being made to secure a vote in Parliament before cuts are irretrievably rolled out within this and other sectors of the UK aid programme.

Trustees, WATSAN Uganda, UK Support

Ian Bensted, Chair

Graham Piper, Vice-Chair

Ali Fergusson, Treasurer

Ellie Bensted, Secretary

Andrew Maclean
Kate Parrinder