THE UK government announced this year that it would not meet its UN funding target for official developmental assistance in a first since 2013. Scotland’s annual commitment of £10 million to foreign aid, despite being a reserved issue, should be taken as an example.

The UK’s failure to meet the UN investment target of 0.7% of gross national income is only contributing to developing countries’ struggles to combat the pandemic.

Whilst as a percentage this may seem small to some, it amounts to billions of pounds in investment. The question remains as to whether the 0.7% target will be met by the UK in 2022 either, with the commons voting in a set of tests earlier this year that must be met in order to restore the target.

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The amount of funds that emerging economies can redirect to deal with the pandemic are severely restricted due to an existing lack of stable domestic financial resources, worsened by high levels of debt. They have further been restricted by the knock-on global impacts of Covid. The implementation of cross-border restrictions has significantly disrupted supply chains to and from these nations. At the start of the pandemic, in February 2020, the UN estimated that $50 billion of global exports were lost. Many emerging economies, specifically island nations, also rely on tourism that has been badly hit by travel restrictions.

These financial impacts mean that some countries are unable to afford widespread necessary personal protective equipment and emergency investment in their healthcare systems. Coupled with cramped living conditions and overcrowding, transmission rates are inevitably high in developing countries. Brazil and India, both classed by the UN as developing economies, make two of the top three countries for total reported covid cases at the time this article was written. The outlook for transmission rates in the African continent where omicron is believed to have emerged is severely worrying. Currently, only 6 people per 100 population are fully vaccinated in the continent.

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The importance of prioritising foreign aid in 2022 is even more significant in the face of the Omicron variant. The WHO state that the Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa less than a month ago. In this short space of time, it has become one of the UK’s most concerning variants, with the country experiencing as Boris Johnson stated, ‘a tidal wave’ of cases.

In short, the higher the rate of transmission of the virus, the greater the chance of mutations that may contribute to the development of new strains or variants. Contributing to the curbing of transmission rates globally should be something that the UK government is prioritising.

If the UK is to maintain any sort of image it believes it has on the global stage post-Brexit, it must not neglect its duties to developing countries that do not have the full capacity to deal with a health crisis. To do so will also result in a knock-on negative effect for the rest of the world, as emerging economies struggle to tackle the virus.

This article originally featured in our sister title, The National, in Scotland. 

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