The Ebola crisis has proven how important it is to send aid to the countries that need it most

We can't turn a blind eye when the world's poorest countries are facing national disasters

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The Independent Online

London is home to 72 billionaires, each whose personal net worth is more than the entire country of Liberia. In 2012, Liberia (which has a population of 4m) raised government revenues equivalent to £83 per person for an entire year.

It’s hard to see then how it can possibly begin to address the devastating Ebola crisis rampaging across the country. The World Health Organisation estimates that one Ebola test kit costs £150, almost twice the government revenues per person per year.

Even without this crippling crisis, Liberia’s economic struggle is echoed across all Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which are the poorest and most vulnerable in the world. Without access to significant private investment and with poor trade links, overseas aid makes up more than 70 per cent of the countries’ annual income.

Yet according to a report just released by the ONE campaign, less than a third of aid actually goes to these countries that so desperately need it.

The new report tracks public development finance by both donor and African countries, to hold them accountable for meeting their spending commitments. The report shows that the majority of governments are letting down the world’s poorest people.

The UK has been a trailblazer, being the first G7 country to spend 0.7% of national income on aid. But the majority of Europe is not keeping up, and other countries like the US and Canada don’t even have ongoing aid commitments. Last year, the shortfall of all the EU countries who didn’t meet their 0.7% goal amounted to £33.6 billion.

 

Compounding the problem of a lack of political will among many governments to meet their aid commitments, it’s also estimated that the proportion of aid to LDCs is projected to decline even further in the years ahead. This is because donors are increasing the use of loans (that are more suited for middle-income countries), while grants to the poorest countries decline.

It’s critical that we reverse this trend and resources are targeted to where they are needed most. There needs to be a new global target to contribute 50 per cent of total aid to LDCs. If all donors had achieved that target in 2012, it would have meant an additional £14bn going to those countries. This money could then be used to educate children and fund vital health systems that are more resilient to global crises such as the Ebola epidemic.

While rich countries scramble to find emergency funds to fight Ebola, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone have been struggling for more than six months to contain the disease. On October 2, the UK hosted the "Defeating Ebola" conference in London to help coordinate international response to the outbreak in Sierra Leone, having already committed £125m to fight the virus.

Yet without consistent and sustained aid investments earlier on in essential services, such as health systems, that can help prevent crises before they start, donors have to spend millions more in emergency aid down the line.

Next year, leaders are coming together to agree a set of new ambitious development goals, including the final push to end extreme poverty by 2030. It’s vital that both developed and developing countries are prepared to back this with real money and ensure the world’s poorest and most vulnerable are not left even further behind.

To read the full ONE campaign report, go to: http://bit.ly/1BIQst6

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