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Human Rights (Sudan/Burma)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had with representatives of Amnesty International about the level and nature of human rights abuses in (a) Sudan and (b) Burma. [148126]

Mr. Mullin: I have been asked to reply.

I discussed human rights in Sudan with the Director of Amnesty International UK on 11 December 2003. We are in regular contact with Amnesty International on human rights issues in Burma. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials last spoke to Amnesty International on 15 January about their recent visit to Burma.

Infant Mortality Reduction

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what further action he proposes to take to help to achieve the goal in Africa of a reduction in under-five mortality rates for girls and boys from 158 per 1,000 live births to 139. [148138]

Hilary Benn: While some African countries have successfully reduced child mortality since 1990, in others it has changed little, and some African countries have experienced a rise in child mortality since 1990. It is generally accepted that a significant change will be needed if the target to reduce under-five mortality rates by two thirds by 2015 is to be achieved. Challenges include: the HIV/AIDS epidemic; economic decline and persistent poverty; inequality; under-resourced and poorly functioning health systems; and lack of progress in reducing the number of deaths of newborn babies.

DFID supports child health through wider work on strengthening health systems. We are actively supporting health sector development in 10 African countries, including working with partners to strengthen policy and action on child health. The UK will also continue to contribute to global initiatives such as the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and Roll Back Malaria, which have helped revitalise interest in childhood diseases and substantially increased the resources directed to child health. We shall continue to support implementation of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness Initiative with partners from the United Nations International Children's Fund, the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development. This initiative is building the quality and quantity of child health care at country level throughout Africa. The UK is also part of the recently inaugurated High Level Forum on Health which plans to address systemic challenges to achieving the health related Millennium Development Goals.

In a range of countries we also have specific investments in sectors that contribute to reducing child mortality, for example in water and sanitation and in education. The UK's broader development efforts to enhance economic growth and address inequity, conflict, civil unrest, child rights and food insecurity can also be expected to have a positive impact on child health outcomes.

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At all levels of our engagement with African partners, we shall be increasingly explicit that affordable and sustainable child health outcomes need greater priority in poverty reduction strategies, especially in those countries with high child mortality.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) if he will make a statement on progress towards the target of an increase in the proportion of births assisted by skilled birth attendants from 39 per cent. to 57 per cent. in key countries in Asia, with particular reference to Bangladesh and Pakistan; [148132]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: DFID's Autumn Performance Report (APR), which is available in the House of Commons Library, reports on progress towards all of Asia's Public Service Agreement (PSA) indicators. The APR also explains what action we are taking regarding off-track indicators. The following additional detail covers the country-specific issues.

China and India have made progress in increasing the proportion of births assisted by skilled birth attendants, but Bangladesh and Pakistan show little progress so far.

In Bangladesh, DFID is currently supporting the Government's national plan for maternal mortality reduction. We are considering what else we can do to help Bangladesh to make speedier progress, which might include giving earmarked funding to accelerate maternal mortality reduction or an increased budgetary allocation for this purpose. In Pakistan, where progress has also been slow, DFID is developing proposals for substantial support for accelerated actions to improve maternal and neonatal health.

There has been little improvement so far in reducing child mortality in India. To help respond to this challenge, DFID is supporting the design of the Government of India's Reproductive and Child Health Programme for 2004–08, which encompasses child mortality reduction. We intend to make a significant financial contribution in support of this programme.

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The ratio of girls to boys enrolled in primary school has improved in Bangladesh and China but in Pakistan and India, considerable progress is still needed. The Pakistan Government, in their recent Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, expressed a commitment to provide education for all through improved access to primary education. We and the other major donors support this commitment. DFID's current education programme promotes progress towards universal primary education and we plan to expand this support over the coming year. In India, which has made some progress, we are continuing to support the District Primary Education Projects in our partner states of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Orissa. An integral part of this programme is the promotion of girls' education through a range of special initiatives and incentives. Enrolment, retention and completion rates of girls continue to steadily improve. We are also supporting the Lok Jumbish education programme in Rajasthan, which places significant emphasis on girls education. Emphasis on girls' education is also central in the new national strategy for universal elementary education, which DFID is planning to support with the WB and EC.

Iranian Earthquake

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many sniffer dogs in the United Kingdom were ineligible to accompany search and rescue teams to Iran on account of quarantine regulations. [147349]

Hilary Benn: There are 12 collapsed structure search and rescue dogs that are registered with the National Search and Rescue dog group. None were ineligible to accompany the rescue teams to Iran. However, seven had only recently completed quarantine following the earthquake response to Algeria last May and their owners felt it was not appropriate to subject them to another spell of quarantine so soon after that mission.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many sniffer dogs accompanied the search and rescue specialists who went from the United Kingdom to Iran on 27 December 2003. [147350]

Hilary Benn: Four dogs sent from the UK took part in the search and rescue operations in Iran.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what briefing he has received from the heads of the UK search and rescue teams in Iran since their return to this country. [147385]

Hilary Benn: DFID officials have been in regular contact with team leaders since their return from Iran. There will be a formal debrief meeting, as is standard practice on Wednesday 21 January.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many of the people described in his written ministerial statement of 5 January 2004, Official Report, columns 1–4WS, as having been evacuated to receive tertiary care in Iran have now received that care. [147386]

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Hilary Benn: According to latest reports from the Head of the Disaster National taskforce an estimate of 12,500 people were evacuated by air from Bam to other centres in Iran. All casualties have been treated.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his latest estimate is of the number of city officials in Bam who were killed during the recent earthquake. [147387]

Hilary Benn: The latest official Iranian Government figures estimate that 30,000 people lost their lives of which a proportion were city officials. Specific details of city officials killed has not been released. Meanwhile the Iranian authorities and the Iranian Red Crescent Society tracing department are continuing their assessment of missing persons.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the number of unsolicited items provided by UK nationals to assist with shelter for people made homeless by the earthquake in Iran. [147388]

Hilary Benn: The Iranian embassy has expressed its gratitude for the tremendous response by the British public to the tragic situation in Iran. We cannot however, estimate the quantity of the unsolicited items they have been offered.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many of the people who suffered injuries in the earthquake in Iran have been (a) hospitalised and (b) treated. [147389]

Hilary Benn: The latest official Iranian Government figures give an estimate of 30,000 casualties that suffered injuries. Some of 12,500 people sustained severe injuries and were evacuated to other centres in Iran for treatment. The Iranian Red Crescent set up an extensive mobilised medical field hospital with four additional field hospitals set up by the Ukraine, Russia, Germany, Azerbaijan and Japan.

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