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UK government blocks Rwandan aid: a bad decision

A child being treated at the SOS Medical Centre Byumba Rwanda
A child being treated at the SOS Medical Centre Byumba Rwanda

The UK government today announced that it was blocking £21m in aid to Rwanda citing concerns about Rwandan involvement in the DRC warring, contrary to agreements. Justine Greening should instead work with NGOs like SOS Children to get aid money directly to those in greatest need.

This is an editorial by Andrew Cates, CEO of SOS Children

When will they ever learn? I have commented on this website a number of times on how government to government aid is fraught with risks. At best it amounts to an attempt to bribe governments toward "good" (or politically aligned) behaviour and at worst it simply lines the pockets of the corrupt. Government to government aid is behind every white elephant across Africa and has a very poor record at actually helping countries or their poor. But a perfectly viable alternative exists which would actually help the neediest people in each country far more.

In Rwanda SOS Children runs a technical college to train people out of poverty, runs three primary schools (in Byumba, Gikongoro and Kigali), two medical centres, three programmes aimed at preventing child abandonment (family strengthening programmes) and runs more than fifty family houses where orphans are brought up (as a last resort) in families of around ten children each. These are hugely effective programmes under our direct control and we have audited accounts to vouch for all the money we spend there directly helping improve lives.

We also have recently given a group of Rwandan children the chance to video their country and present it online in an award winning website which won the 2012 One World Media Award.

You might think we would be obvious people to talk to about what the people in Rwanda actually need. But do we get any chance to talk with the UK government? Of course not. We badly need funding but do we get any funding from the UK government for our work there? Of course not. We sometimes get given the proceeds from the fines which Premier League clubs dish out to their players (thanks Spurs) but we never get money which was diverted away from governments who do not please ours. Our programmes are funded by small private donors and sponsors and we struggle to keep going when times are hard as they are right now. Placing priority on the developing world in national budgets is all very well but not if the "development" budget goes to governments instead of those charities who actually run the programmes which help the poorest.

Strange world we live in.