We a currently witnessing the biggest sustained backsliding in childhood immunisation in a generation. Between 2019 and 2021, 67 million children missed out on their routine vaccinations.
If we take one example, the routine diphtheria tetanus toxoid and pertussis (DTP3) vaccine in childhood, coverage has increased significantly over the past 20 years. But for the first time in three decades, DTP3 coverage among children decreased in 2021.
Vaccination rates worldwide can often be used as a proxy for wider spend and attention on international development globally. The covid-19 pandemic has also unfortunately taken some of the focus away from routine vaccination.
The United Nations have stated that:
“The pandemic has severely disrupted essential health services, triggered an increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression, lowered global life expectancy, derailed progress towards ending HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria, and halted two decades of work towards making health coverage universal.
As a result, immunization coverage dropped for the first time in 10 years, and deaths from TB and malaria increased. Urgent and concerted action is needed to set the world back on a trajectory towards achieving [Sustainable Development] Goal 3.”
The pandemic should have been a rallying cry to this Tory Government, encouraging more robust and urgent investment and prioritisation to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 3 that focuses on widening health inequalities in all its forms everywhere, but instead it is choosing to turn its back on the world’s poorest. The covid-19 pandemic has wiped out 4 years of work to reverse global extreme poverty. The UK government should be stepping up, not turning its back.
As part of the Tory cuts to UK aid which the SNP has been at the forefront of opposing, the UK Government have allocated just £58.4 million to global health and covid-19 spend and have shamefully reduced spend to £41.8 million in 2023-2024.
As evidenced by these figures, vaccination funding hasn’t been restored to pre-aid cuts levels, and is being eroded even further. The current Conservative Minister for International Development, Andrew Mitchell MP, has put on the record “We used to be a foreign aid superpower, but our reputation has declined.” That is an astonishing admission, but it is also the truth.
True UK aid spend overseas has been eroded even further to just 0.36% of gross national income. This is due to the vast amount of UK aid going to the Home Office to house refugees in the UK. We must support refugees and those who have reached the UK fleeing danger and persecution but that is not the core purpose of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget, and this accountancy trickery must stop. Additional and unexpected costs should be just that, additional to the existing ODA budget.
We are calling on the UK Government to urgently increase funding to adequately respond to the immunisation crisis, exhausting all avenues to prevent unnecessary loss of life and loss of quality of life. We urge the UK to return the ODA budget to 0.7% of GNI immediately.
The SNP believe that international aid should help the furthest behind first and should prioritise helping to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, the UK has, under this Tory government, resigned from its international responsibilities by slashing aid spending, and turning a blind eye to human rights atrocities.
Independence for Scotland is the only way to boost incomes and build a fairer society at home and globally, and the SNP will continue to make the case for the Scottish people to decide Scotland's future.