“It should never have come to this” in one of the world’s richest countries, opposition Labour Party deputy leader Rayner says of UN’s first-ever emergency response in Britain.

A woman writes on a stand informing about give away of free meals to children and families at the Open Door Community Space and Cafe in Berkhamsted, Britain, October 28, 2020.
A woman writes on a stand informing about give away of free meals to children and families at the Open Door Community Space and Cafe in Berkhamsted, Britain, October 28, 2020. (Reuters)

The British government has faced criticism after it has emerged a UN agency is helping to feed hungry children as part of its first ever UK emergency response.

The opposition Labour party said it was "a disgrace" that a grant from UN children's agency UNICEF was helping fund breakfast for nearly 2,000 struggling families over the Christmas school holidays.

"We are one of the richest countries in the world," said Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner, adding "it should have never come to this".

"Our children should not have to rely on humanitarian charities that are used to operating in war zones and in response to natural disasters."

Conservatives get the flak 

The ruling Conservatives have already faced severe criticism and been forced to U-turn over the provision of free meals to the poorest children during school holidays.

That followed a high-profile campaign by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford during the coronavirus pandemic.

The UNICEF grant of $33,700 will be spent by several non-profit organisations in Southwark, south London.

They will receive 18,000 breakfasts, which will be distributed by schools for two weeks, and the programme will also provide 6,750 breakfasts over the February half-term break.

The UN agency has said the coronavirus pandemic is the most urgent crisis affecting children since World War II.

Govt proves itself right

"This is UNICEF's first ever emergency response within the UK, introduced to tackle the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus crisis and reach the families most in need," said Anna Kettley, director of programmes at Unicef UK.

"This funding will help build stronger communities as the impact of the pandemics worsen, but ultimately a longer-term solution is needed to tackle the root causes of food poverty, so no child is left to go hungry."

Johnson's official spokesman defended the government's record on the issue.

"We would point to the substantial action we've taken to ensure that children don't go hungry through the pandemic and I would point to the additional $21.7 million we pledged not too long ago to food distribution charities," he told reporters.

READ MORE: Muslims distribute iftar meals amid pandemic using New York’s halal carts

Source: AFP