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How UK aid is helping to find cures for diseases and develop super crops

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Stories in The Times and The Express this morning focus on a UK aid backed fund which supports research projects in the developing world.

The Newton Fund is helping to tackle the zika virus, prevent birth defects, develop drought resistant crops and reduce hunger. Tackling global issues like these is both beneficial for the developing world as well as in the UK’s national interest.

Today's coverage focuses on a report on the fund by the Independent Commission For Aid Impact (ICAI).

ICAI acknowledges in the report that “research and innovation projects can play an important role in addressing challenges faced by the poorest people in the world”, while criticising some aspects of the Fund.

Other research programmes funded by UK aid outside the Newton Fund are also trying to find solutions to global problems, including cures for Ebola,  and snakebites. Previous UK aid funded research has led to the development of a test to detect drug-resistant tuberculosis, which is now used by the NHS.

To continue supporting pioneering research like this, the Department For International Development (DFID) has committed to invest 3% of its budget in research and development.

The Department For Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which oversees the Newton Fund, and (DFID) both provided The Times with statements on their story.

The BEIS statement reads:

The Newton Fund is at the forefront of lifesaving research helping the world’s poorest people, from fighting the zika virus, preventing birth defects, to developing drought resistant crops to help reduce hunger.

We welcome this report, which recognises Newton Fund’s global reputation for strong research partnerships with developing countries to help tackle challenges they face.

We will carefully consider the recommendations and respond fully in due course.

The DFID statement reads:

All UK aid – spent by any government department – must meet international guidelines on what constitutes ODA. This ensures all UK aid spending promotes and specifically targets the economic development and welfare of developing countries.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK (UUK) and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool also commented on the report. She said:

The Newton Fund has supported research collaboration between UK universities and their counterparts in 17 developing countries around the world on topics like climate change, food and water security and infectious diseases.

By addressing these challenges together, as well as topics which could lead to economic development and long-term economic sustainability of these countries, UK universities and their collaborators are making a fundamental contribution to the alleviation of poverty which is the goal of Official Development Assistance.

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