Author: Raphael Mweninguwe Matteo Civillini

UK aid cuts leave Malawi vulnerable to droughts and cyclones

Source(s): Climate Home News

After cyclone Freddy ravaged Malawi at the start of the year, mother-of-nine Elube Sandram was left staring at a trail of devastation. Flood water had destroyed all her corn crops, an essential lifeline to feed her family and earn a modest income. The spiralling costs of seeds and fertilisers put replanting beyond her reach. “The cyclone left me completely with nothing”, she told Climate Home News. As Sandram searched for help, she said no relief was available aside from the limited support she could obtain from family members.


Her problems could have been prevented. In 2018, she registered for a £52 million ($63m) UK aid programme which helped vulnerable Malawians better cope with climate-driven floods and droughts. But during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the UK government cut back its aid spending, ending support for Sandram and many others in Malawi and around the world.


The programme that Sandram was involved with was run by UN agencies and NGOs and helped farmers by providing them with tools, training on things like pig farming and financial assistance like weather-related insurance or cash transfers. The idea was that it’s not quite so disastrous if a flood or a drought destroys a farmers’ crops if they have livestock or an insurance payout to keep putting food on the table. But following the UK’s cutbacks, several parts of the scheme have been reduced or axed altogether.


Countries like Malawi cannot afford to address these problems alone. Unsustainable levels of existing public debt rule out borrowing at expensive rates as an option. Most of Malawi’s climate plans are funded through grant-based international public finance provided by rich countries like the United Kingdom. The cuts have hit climate projects around the world. UK-funded climate resilience projects have been cut or delayed in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Kenya and small-island states. Government figures show that the number of people whose climate resilience was improved by UK aid flatlined for the first time since records began in the last financial year.


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