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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will take steps to send an independent international commission of inquiry to Darfur. [148543]

Hilary Benn: At present limited access in Darfur means that the various humanitarian agencies are unable to fully assess the situation on the ground, or to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable.

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So we are calling on all parties to re-establish a ceasefire to allow unfettered humanitarian access. We have offered our good offices to all parties to help them reach a peaceful solution, and have suggested that there may be a role for the international community in assisting in the implementation of a peace deal.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions he has had on human rights abuses in Darfur with the Sudanese authorities. [148643]

Hilary Benn: I discussed the human rights situation in Sudan with the President during my visit to Khartoum on 10 December 2003.

We continue to be concerned about the human rights situation in the whole of Sudan, regardless of religious or ethnic background. The promotion of human rights, through advocacy with the government and support for NGOs, remains one of our priorities.

Heavily Indebted Poor Countries

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of eligible heavily indebted poor countries committed to poverty reduction have received irrevocable debt relief. [149161]

Hilary Benn: Of the thirty-seven countries that could potentially qualify for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries' (HIPC) Initiative, twenty-seven have reached Decision Point and have therefore received interim relief on their debt service payments. This means that they no longer have to make any repayments on a substantial portion (around two-thirds) of their debts and are able to use these resources for increased social expenditure. Of these thirty-seven countries, nine have reached Completion Point and have received an irrevocable reduction in their stock of debt. A further ten are expected to reach Completion Point by the end of 2004.

Middle East

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what projects his Department are involved in in (a) Gaza and (b) the West Bank, aimed at improving public access to water for (i) consumption and (ii) agriculture. [148929]

Hilary Benn: We have had broad engagement with the Palestinian Water Authority for several years supporting the effective delivery of water services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Four projects that have improved access to potable water, sanitation and environmental health in some of the poorest communities have just been brought to a successful conclusion. We currently fund two projects.

Our support for the Sustainable Management of the West Bank and Gaza Strip Aquifers project will enhance the Palestinian Water Authority's understanding of the western aquifer, which is an essential source of water in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The project includes consideration of the management and allocation of water resources between various uses—agriculture, industry and domestic—to allow the implications of alternative policies to be assessed. We also support a Water Access and Storage project to enable villages in the south

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Hebron district of the West Bank that do not have access to the networked water supply to obtain more secure access to drinking water and sustainable improved sanitation.

Global Health Fund

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact over the last 12 months of the Global Health Fund in tackling (a) HIV/AIDS, (b) tuberculosis and (c) malaria. [149074]

Hilary Benn: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) was founded in January 2002. We recognise that the GFATM is still a young partnership and that it has just started to finance programmes within countries. The impact of GFATM is difficult to measure at this early stage but its 2002–03 annual report provides very good evidence of progress made to date on each of these diseases. Disbursement is now accelerating we expect to see more evidence of the impact of the Global Fund.

DFID has been working closely with the Board on effective ways to measure the GFATM's performance and evaluate its processes. We are working to ensure that the GFATM has a clear poverty focus, sound financial systems in place and alignment of its activities with national programmes and processes.

Infant Mortality

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what the result has been of his Department's technical and financial contribution to the development and implementation of effective health programmes in the 16 African countries affected by his public service agreement target on mortality among children aged under five years; [148553]

Hilary Benn: Of the 16 PSA countries, six have experienced a rise in child mortality between 1990 and 2001. The other ten have made varying degrees of progress but are all generally some way below the level needed to reach the PSA target.

Child mortality has multiple and complex causes. Economic decline and associated malnutrition is likely to have played a major role in constraining improvement in child health. Several African countries have also experienced conflict and civil unrest, which further undermine attempts to reduce child mortality. Other significant reasons for lack of progress include problems within the performance of the health sector itself and HIV/AIDS.

However, in a number of the PSA countries some encouraging progress has been achieved against intermediate health indicators. For example, in Ghana there has been progress with immunisation rates and deployment of nurses. Tanzania has seen improved immunisation rates, significant Vitamin A and insecticide-treated mosquito net distribution, improved

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malaria treatment and strengthened health planning and management at district level. In Uganda, use of outpatient services has increased and immunisation rates have risen. All of these improvements have the potential to improve child mortality rates.

The Department for International Development's contribution to these improvements in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and other countries has been provided in a number of ways, including through support for the health sector, budget support, and technical assistance. It is also important to recognise that DFID is not working alone, and that changes are due to the combined efforts of the countries concerned and other donors as well as ourselves. We will continue to work with other donors to ensure that affordable and sustainable health outcomes are given due priority and support in national planning and budgeting processes.


Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what studies have been made of cancer rates in Iraq (a) from 1991 to 2002 and (b) since the end of hostilities on 1 May 2003. [148270]

Hilary Benn: DFID is not aware of any studies of cancer rates carried out by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, Coalition Provisional Authority or other bodies. The ability accurately to measure localised increases in cancer rates—especially if there is cancer due to radiation, which can take years to develop—requires a well-developed national disease surveillance system, which Iraq does not currently have. The World Health Organisation plans to carry out a study to investigate the effects of the use of depleted uranium in ordnance used by military forces, which some individuals have claimed has caused an increase in cancer rates in Iraq, using that country as a key focus. This study will be subject to funding and to an improvement in the security situation.

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much his Department has spent on (a) secondments, (b) consultants and (c) security as part of its expenditure on humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Iraq. [149212]

Hilary Benn: We have spent (a) £2.1 million on secondments, (b) £6.3 million on consultants and (c) £11.4 million on security measures in Iraq to date. In addition, we have recently contributed £3.6 million to UNSECOORD for security measures for UN operations in Iraq.

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Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what efforts his Department have made to employ Iraqis in development work in that country. [149162]

Hilary Benn: DFID's approach is to encourage the involvement and employment of Iraqis as much as possible in all the work we fund. For some projects, this has included direct employment of Iraqi staff and sub-contracting of Iraqi firms. By way of example, the vast majority of the construction work DFID has funded in southern Iraq has been sub-contracted to local firms. One of the criteria we have set for our £20 million Essential Infrastructure Programme has been to give priority to projects that create the most employment. We are also considering funding for direct employment generation schemes in southern Iraq.

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