16 Dec 2002 : Column 556Wcontinued
Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what monitoring her Department is undertaking of the impact of the privatisation of basic services in developing countries on the accessibility of these services to the poorest people. 
Clare Short: Public private partnerships for the delivery of basic services offer important opportunities for improving the accessibility and quality of services, and for reducing costs, for poor people. However, these benefits are not automatically secured. Our country programme staff are involvedoften in the context of their policy dialogue on poverty reduction strategiesin specific cases. We provide technical assistance to make sure that poverty reduction is achieved, including through the PPIAF (Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility).
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on (a) the state of alert declared in East Timor and (b) the progress East Timor has made since independence. 
Clare Short: The Government of East Timor and donor partners met in Dili on 9 and 10 December to review the progress the new nation has made since independence. All parties agreed that economic and budgetary management by the Government had been excellent. Oil and gas revenues from the Timor Gap remain promising and offer the prospect of longer term economic security.
However East Timor suffers from acute shortages of qualified and experienced personnel and this has meant that essential social services have not been delivered to many communities in rural areas. The Government and the international community are working to secure the necessary expertise in order to redress the situation.
The riot in Dili on 4 December appears to have been sparked by heavy handed policing, but was exacerbated by frustration at the slow pace of development. This is directly linked to the difficulties the Government is having in delivering essential services.
The riot was brought under control in a matter of hours. The events have emphasised to the Government of East Timor the need to work harder to deliver benefits equitably to the people of East Timor, and the need for continued training and development of the police service. Two Commissions have been established, one by Parliament and the second an independent Commission initiated by the Prime Minister, to investigate the causes of the riot, and the response of the police. These are expected to report in a matter of days.
16 Dec 2002 : Column 557W
Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she is taking to enable quicker implementation of the World bank's initiative to fast-track new donor funds for countries demonstrating progress in improving education. 
Clare Short: Improving education outcomes for poor people is not primarily about donor resources. Our approach to the Fast Track Initiative is to help partner Governments put the policies and plans in place that will enable them to accelerate the achievement of universal primary education. It is important that these plans take into account the circumstances and needs of the individual country. Seven countries have prepared proposals but these need to be rigorously reviewed by local donor groups, to ensure that they are coherent with each country's existing plans (including poverty reduction strategies and medium-term economic frameworks or their equivalent), and to confirm that countries have the capacity to absorb any additional finance.
John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the impact which population growth is having on the ability of Ethiopia to reach the United Nations' millennium development goals. 
Clare Short: Ethiopia's population of 67 million is growing at 2.7 per cent. per annum. Rapid population growth makes it harder to achieve the millennium development goals; when households have many children, investment in education or health per child tends to be lower, especially for poor people.
Population pressure on natural resources in some parts of Ethiopia is leading to environmental degradation, undermining the livelihoods of rural people. The objective of the Government of Ethiopia's national population policy is to maintain balance between the size of the population and the country's resource base. Through activities in the health sector and on female education the aim of the policy is to reduce fertility rates, increase rates of contraceptive prevalence and reduce maternal, infant and child morbidity and mortality rates.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what her Department is doing to give women in developing countries better access to family planning and sexual health services. 
Clare Short: The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) goal of universal access to reproductive health (through the primary health care system) is central to attainment of the health MDGs. The UK remains firmly committed to achievement of the ICPD Programme of Action and to the principles and rights it stands for. It is as relevant today as it was in 1994.
16 Dec 2002 : Column 558W
multilateral agencies covering sexual and reproductive health including, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Bank and the European Community (EC).
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment her Department has made of the size of the land plots allocated to families in (a) Ethiopia, (b) Malawi and (c) Burundi. 
Clare Short: Ethiopia underwent a major land redistribution campaign in 1975. Land was then taken into state ownership and limited rights of access were given to peasants who farmed it. Since then, increasing population has decreased the size of the individual farm holdings. DFID-funded research that was carried out in 2002 found that the average plot size was 1.41 Ha per household. In a recent comparative study of five African countries (funded by USAID) the equivalent figure quoted for Malawi was 0.99 Ha per household (National Economic Council, Malawi, 2000).
Clare Short: The problem in southern Africa is one of declining access to food. Poor people are becoming more and more vulnerable to food shortage, as successive harvest failures have eroded their savings and other assets and hence their ability to cope. HIV/AIDS and other disease burdens are compounding this problem. Inappropriate policies, serious governmance failures and a shortage of foreign exchange have contributed to a failure to come to grips with the poverty which lies at the root of this vulnerability. There have also been poor information flows and planning in relation to the short-term response to the humanitarian crisis.
The problem of vulnerability is also extreme in Ethiopiaone of the poorest countries in the world ranking 168 out of 173 on the Human Development Index. Vast numbers of households lack the savings or other assets to cope with even minor shocks, let alone the significant reduction in harvest caused by rain failure in 2002. Government has rural development policies in place but capacity constraints are limiting impact. The systems for short-term response to humanitarian crises are relatively well-developed and function adequately.
16 Dec 2002 : Column 559W
Clare Short: The early warning system (EWS) in Ethiopia is a combined Government of Ethiopia, UN and NGO initiative. This EWS is well developed and has played an important role in forecasting the likely humanitarian developments. We pay close attention to the information being provided from all sources to help ensure we respond in good time to help address the most urgent needs.
Clare Short: We have given #1.35 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 2002 Appeal for (a) Eritrea, and stand ready to provide more support in response to need. Officials from my Department plan to visit Eritrea early in the new year. Support this year to (b) Sudan to address basic humanitarian needs, including those as a result of food shortages, consists of #2 million to the ICRC and a further #5 million through international non-government organisations and other agencies.