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19 Jan 2004 : Column 943W—continued


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of (a) the supply of clean water, (b) sanitation and (c) electricity supply in Liberia. [148106]

Hilary Benn: Clean water supply remains a major challenge, although immediate needs are being met. In urban centres, DFID has supported efforts to chlorinate shallow wells and, in sites where Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have collected, to provide safe water

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from drilled bore-holes with tankers, storage bladders and distribution networks. In rural areas, a major programme to rehabilitate wells and hand pumps is under way, with DFID backing.

Urgent sanitation needs are largely under control, since IDPs were moved from Monrovia to formal camps with established sanitation infrastructures.

Electrical supply has been virtually non-existent throughout the country for the last 15 years. The population has largely adjusted to this, and urgent needs, for instance in hospitals, are covered by generators provided and run by the humanitarian community.

Repairing and expanding the electrical grid system remains a significant mid-term rehabilitation requirement.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the security situation in Liberia and its impact on humanitarian relief. [148107]

Hilary Benn: The general security situation in Liberia remains stable, if fragile. However, while the number of UNMIL peacekeeping troops is insufficient to guarantee security across the country, the humanitarian agencies are understandably cautious in extending their activities beyond Monrovia; humanitarian operations remain restricted in scope, with only a few agencies implementing mostly small-scale activities in the more distant and insecure counties. In spite of this, the most urgent and acute humanitarian needs across Liberia are being met. Recent UNMIL deployments to Buchanan and Tubmanburg will, we hope, lead to the opening of UN sub-offices in these strategic towns, and a scaling up of humanitarian assistance. We understand that the UN is considering reducing the security alert level outside Monrovia from the current maximum level of Phase IV. This would also assist the spread of humanitarian programmes.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of the levels of (a) food, (b) shelter and (c) medicine for the people of Liberia. [148108]

Hilary Benn: Given the extensive displacement of the population from their agricultural land, domestic food production in Liberia is inadequate, and will remain so in 2004. However, plans to feed almost 800,000 vulnerable people in 2004, which we propose to support, should provide sufficient food to avert extreme shortages.

With the large majority of informal settlements in Monrovia having been closed, and their occupants resettled to more formal camps, shelter for IDPs is considered by the relief agencies to be adequate, although temporary. The reconstruction of permanent shelters in IDPs' places of origin remains a major challenge for 2004–05.

With the reactivation of health services across the country, managed by international NGOs (with DFID support), medicines are in good supply in those areas where agencies are currently able to operate.

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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals in Liberia. [148122]

Hilary Benn: Liberia is just beginning a planned period of recovery from long and widespread destruction and collapse of Government services caused by civil war, corruption, and incompetent Government unconcerned to provide public services. Consequently, there has been no progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

The National Transitional Government of Liberia, which has been in office only since October 2003, has agreed with the UN, World Bank and international agencies a comprehensive framework for post-conflict recovery over its two-year period of office. Its intention is to put in place, over this period, the basis for re-establishment of Government Administration and service provision that will subsequently enable progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much money has been given by his Department in each of the last six years (a) for medicines to fight malaria and (b) to research into affordable anti-malaria medicines. [148088]

Hilary Benn: The Department for International Development works closely with many partners to help developing countries accelerate progress towards achieving the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Goal VI is: by 2015, to have halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other major diseases. Goal IV contains a target to reduce by two thirds between 1990 and 2015 the under-five mortality ratio.

The UK is committed to tackling malaria and contributing towards poverty reduction, in line with the MDGs and the associated Abuja Targets on malaria control. At the 1998 G8 summit in Birmingham the UK pledged £60 million in support of malaria activities, with £48 million allocated to Roll Back Malaria (RBM) over the period January 1999 to March 2004. RBM provides coordinated support for sustainable action against malaria. This includes providing technical support to Governments to ensure that their anti-malarial drug policies enable those suffering from malaria to get early treatment and to access affordable and appropriate medicines. As an active partner of RBM, DFID works to ensure RBM provides sound evidence-based support for the effective use of resources, including those available from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to which we have committed a total of US$280 million.

Within our overall spend on communicable diseases, we estimate that the amount spent on named malaria projects, including country programme and research spend, has been:

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DFID funds a variety of projects and programmes which work towards malaria control, including on the development and supply of anti-malarial drugs. DFID makes direct investments in research that covers malaria in several ways. Every year we give £4 million to the MRC through a Concordat agreement, which prioritises the needs of developing countries. Within the overall MRC portfolio, the focus on basic clinical research that can be used to identify new drug candidates includes malaria.

DFID also engage more directly in partnerships with industry to transform basic research, of the kind supported by the MRC, into drugs. We recently worked with GlaxoSmithKline, the WHO programme on Tropical Disease Research and Liverpool University in the development of a cheap new drug called LAPDAP(tm). In order to make the best use of this drug, further research to combine it with another drug to protect against early resistance is being undertaken, managed under an umbrella organisation called the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), which DFID also supports. MMV is an important and innovative organisation that brings together researchers from the public and private sectors, with donors and foundations. DFID is funding MMV with £1 million per year for five years. Since its inception in 1999 MMV has demonstrated significant progress towards reaching its objective to deliver two new drugs in the next 10 years.

Effective health systems are equally important if medicines are to be delivered safely. Many poor countries still do not have the capacity to deliver treatments for malaria in a safe and effective way, regardless of their cost. This is why we have committed £1.5 billion since 1997 to help developing countries strengthen their health systems.

Maternal Mortality

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what steps he is taking to meet the Millennium Development goals to reduce the level of maternal mortality among developing countries; [148083]

Hilary Benn: I will answer questions 7107 and 7507 together.

Globally well over half a million women die in childbirth each year. A further 1.5 million women are left with a disability as a result of complications in childbirth and two million children are orphaned. The 5th Millennium Development Goal of improving maternal health has a target to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. One proxy indicator of progress against this target is the proportion of births assisted by skilled birth attendants. This is reflected in DFID's Public Service Agreement Targets.

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Improvement in the proportion of births assisted by skilled attendants has been a key feature in countries where the maternal mortality ratio has been reduced. Skilled attendance means the presence of a professional with midwifery skills, supported by the necessary supplies and systems. Also important is a functioning referral system, able to provide rapid access to life saving skills and procedures in the event of an emergency. The reality in many developing countries falls far short of this and most women deliver alone or with a family member or traditional birth attendant.

DFID is committed to reducing the toll of maternal death and to promoting women's right to a safe pregnancy and childbirth. The Department's strategy includes advocacy in the international arena, support to countries to strengthen health systems and improve access to maternal and reproductive health services, and support for research and improved measurement tools. Since 1997 the Department has committed approximately £1.5 billion to help developing countries put in place effective health care systems which are vital if maternity services are to be improved. DFID has specific bilateral programmes to promote safe motherhood in Nepal, Malawi and Kenya, which include work to improve access to skilled attendants with the necessary accompanying improvements in access to emergency obstetric care. DFID also supports the maternal health work of international multilateral agencies, including WHO, and international NGOs.

DFID is participating in a new international partnership for Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health and supports a number research programmes to improve the evidence base on effective interventions to reduce maternal mortality including the Initiative for Maternal Mortality Programme Assessment (IMMPACT) with the Gates Foundation, USAID and the EC.

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