The Government has been accused of turning its back on the people of Afghanistan after an official watchdog said UK aid to the nation has more than halved.
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) said the UK is expected to provide £100 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in 2023-24, compared with £246 million in the previous year.
The watchdog’s latest review of UK funding since the Taliban takeover in 2021 said the sharp fall followed successive cuts to Britain’s aid budget and the use of a substantial amount of it on housing refugees in the UK.
The ICAI noted the UK had been an “active and significant donor” to Afghanistan, promising £286 million in aid per year for 2021-22 and 2022-23.
But the allocation for 2022-23 was later slashed to £246 million, which the watchdog said resulted in programmes for polio vaccinations and the clearance of landmines and improvised explosive devices being halted or delayed.
ICAI commissioner Sir Hugh Bayley, who led the report, said: “As the humanitarian situation continues to worsen in Afghanistan, and women and girls’ hard-won rights are being lost, we felt it was important to look again at how the UK is supporting the people of Afghanistan through the aid programme.
“While the UK has played an important role in the international aid response since the Taliban takeover, our information note shows that the reduction in UK aid funding has led to programmes that directly benefited Afghan people being stopped or postponed.
“It also highlights the lack of a UK diplomatic presence in Afghanistan which might undermine the effective management of the UK’s contribution to the international aid response.”
Stephanie Draper, chief executive at Bond, the UK network for NGOs, said: “The UK is turning its back on the people of Afghanistan, who are facing a worsening humanitarian crisis.
“Cuts to programmes in the country mean the Government has abandoned women and girls at a time when their rights are deteriorating.
“Reallocating such a huge proportion of UK aid to cover in-country refugee costs has meant the UK is less able to respond and allocate funding to humanitarian crises, which undermines the purpose of UK aid and puts our global credibility on UK aid at risk.
“The Government must deliver on its commitment to the Afghan people by reversing cuts to programmes in the country.”
Preet Kaur Gill, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for international development, said: “This report paints a stark vision for the future for Afghanistan’s people, and Britain’s waning influence in the world.
“Today famine looms over the country, while millions of women are denied their basic rights.
“It is farcical and a betrayal of the Afghans who supported the allied mission that this Government is cutting lifesaving support for them in order to prop up its failing asylum system.”