UK aid to be used to provide thousands of Commonwealth veterans with food and cash transfers
'The British public would be shocked to know that those who have served alongside our armed forces would be living in such poverty. It is absolutely right to make this commitment'
Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt has announced £12m of UK aid will be used to provide daily meals and cash transfers for thousands of veterans of the British military across the Commonwealth.
The Department for International Development (DfID) said the initiative will help 7,000 veterans and widows living in 30 countries - including India, Kenya and Zimbabwe - who are in need of support to meet their basic needs.
Officials added the £11.8m project will provide two meals a day to veterans - around 2,400 calories - and will be delivered through the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League (RCEL) charity.
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Ms Mordaunt, the international development secretary, said: "We owe a tremendous amount to these Commonwealth veterans.
"The British public would be shocked to know that those who have served alongside our armed forces would be living in such poverty. It is absolutely right to make this commitment."
Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, the RCEL deputy grand president and former chief of the defence staff, added: "We owe a great debt to the service men and women of the Commonwealth who served in the British armed forces in the Second World War and afterwards prior to their countries' independence.
"This grant will help the RCEL ensure that these brave men and women are sustained and cared for in their twilight years. As important, it will let them know that they have not been forgotten and their service and sacrifice is remembered."
The action comes as another government minister, Tobias Ellwood, warns that veterans' careers prospects are being blighted by portrayals which give the impression they may have been left "doolally" by their experience of combat.
The minister told The House magazine that the perception that veterans are likely to be damaged is "decidedly untrue and unhelpful".
"We suffer somewhat from perhaps a perception that if you've served you somehow might be damaged. Studies have proven this," Mr Ellwood said.
"One of my absolute commitments is to try and change the surround."
In fact, ex-service personnel were "less likely to have mental health issues, less likely to go to prison, less likely to commit suicide", than their civilian counterparts, he said.
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