UNICEF's recently published 'Future at Risk' report is correct to note that the pandemic is exerting severe pressure on essential and life-saving health services in many, particularly poor, countries around the world, which threatens to increase levels of maternal and child mortality – and thus global progress towards achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3. Unless decisive action is taken now past progress towards this goal – as with many others, like education (SDG 4) – risks being erased altogether.
I am proud that UNICEF notes that the UK has been at the forefront of global health agendas for decades, with an exceptional aid track record. I am confident that current and future development efforts will honour this reputation.
I appreciate the call for the UK to publish a plan for ending preventable deaths of mothers, newborns and children. FCDO Ministers are currently finalising the UK's new international development strategy to align with and deliver upon the Strategic Framework as set out in the Integrated Review, published 16 March.
I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendation that the UK should aim to lead global efforts to build resilient health systems. The Prime Minister has already set out a five-point plan to strengthen health systems against global health crises, and put girls' education and empowerment, including reproductive health, on the global agenda as part of the UK's Presidency of the G7 this year.
Investing in global health is one of seven key priorities for ODA spend, upon which approximately £1.3 billion will be spent by the FCDO in 2021/22.