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26 Jan 2004 : Column 22Wcontinued
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the result has been of the support provided by his Department to the Africa Regional Office of the World Health Organisation for malaria and childhood illness activities. 
Hilary Benn: DFID has agreed an £18 million, six-year project of support to WHO Africa Regional Office in 2002 and it is now at the early stages of implementation. We reviewed progress in 2003 and felt that that the project was well on track. All the countries supported under the project having developed Roll Back Malaria (RBM) and Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) plans.
Countries supported under the project have been able to use their malaria control plans to make applications to the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM). The plans have helped GFATM approve and release significant malaria grants for six countries in the region. WHO has established an inter-country team for the region, which has responded to a number of emergencies such as flood assessments in Malawi and Mozambique. At the same time it has helped to develop country capacity through training and strengthening health systems.
The IMCI strategy is being implemented in most countries of the region and seven are now implementing it in more than 50 per cent. of their districts. There have been major achievements in improving health worker skills, demonstrated through Health Facility Surveys and Multi-Country Evaluations. Attention will now be focused upon strengthening some of the health systems issues in the delivery of IMCI.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the involvement of his Department has been in international forums which form strategies to reduce child mortality, with particular reference to (a) the Child Survival Working Group and (b) the Saving Newborn Lives Initiative. 
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Hilary Benn: It is generally accepted that a significant improvement will be needed if, the MDG target to reduce under five mortality rates by two thirds by 2015 is to be achieved globally. 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.
In addition to country-level work, the Department for International Development makes significant contributions to UNFPA, UNICEF, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and other international and national civil society groups to support their efforts to improve both maternal and child health. We 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 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 within countries. The UK is also part of the recently inaugurated High Level Forum on Health which plans to address challenges to achieving the health related Millennium Development Goals.
A Child Survival Partnership (formerly Working Group) is being proposed by a number of international agencies which will bring together national governments, international organisations, donors and civil society
We have been working with the Saving Newborn Lives Initiative (a Save the Children US Gates Foundation funded project) and the World Health Organisation to develop a Framework for Neonatal Health, which will provide a series of practical and flexible tools to enable policy makers to develop coherent and integrated strategies to reduce newborn deaths.
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Hilary Benn: The Head of DFID's office in Baghdad is the UK voting member of the Programme Review Board, which approves Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) plans for expenditure from the Development Fund for Iraq. DFID secondees to the CPA also have a role, alongside US and other Coalition partners, in drawing up CPA expenditure plans. The US Government decide on the allocation of their own funding provided through the CPA.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many recent meetings officials from his Department have had with local Iraqi non-governmental organisations; and what the results of those meetings have been. 
Hilary Benn: On average five to 10 Iraqi non-governmental organisations (NGOs) visit the DFID office in Baghdad each week (most NGOs prefer not to meet on their own premises). DFID has also sponsored several meetings, particularly on women's political participation and human rights, involving several hundred attendees, many of whom are from small Iraqi NGOs.
The issues raised by the NGOs range widely. One frequent topic is how best DFID and the coalition as a whole can support the development of Iraqi civil society. These discussions inform the development of DFID's strategy and our approach to funding. But many of the NGOs are embryonic and are simply seeking guidance on how to establish themselves properly. We are working with the Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation and the Coalition Provisional Authority on a registration scheme for all NGOs in Iraq.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the number of humanitarian aid stockpiles in Iraq that have been (a) destroyed and (b) stolen since April 2003. 
Hilary Benn: DFID is not aware of any DFID-funded NGO or UN humanitarian aid stockpiles being destroyed or stolen since April 2003. However, some of our regular partners have had problems with other stockpiles. A warehouse of International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Society goods funded by ECHO (and therefore 19 per cent. DFID-funded) was looted in April. The total stock was valued at approximately £280,000. An ICRC warehouse also suffered from looting during this period resulting in the loss of approximately £65,000 worth of stock as well as some vehicles being damaged or stolen.
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Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since the start of the conflict with Iraq to assist with its work in Iraq and neighbouring countries. 
Hilary Benn: DFID provided £1.75 million to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to support its work in Iraq and neighbouring countries in preparedness for the conflict. No further funding has been provided to UNHCR since the conflict.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what progress has been made with the plan of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to assist the return of up to half a million Iraqi refugees; 
Hilary Benn: Since the end of the conflict, United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has facilitated the return of relatively small numbers of Iraqi refugees. These include the voluntary return of over 4,000 Iraqi refugees who spent more than 12 years in the Rafha refugee camp in Saudi Arabia, and some 800 refugees from Iran.
UNHCR is not encouraging returns to Iraq because of insecurity in parts of the country, a lack of humanitarian access, and economic conditions that cannot support mass returns. However, UNHCR is supporting, where it can, the repatriation of people who actively seek to go back regardless of conditions inside the country. It appears that increasing numbers of refugees in neighbouring countries, particularly Iran, are choosing to return to Iraq without support.
Once conditions in Iraq improve, UNHCR plans to step up its work with the Iraqi authorities, the CPA, and governments in countries of asylum, as well as other United Nations agencies and NGO partners, to support the return of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). UNHCR has launched pilot projects for the return and reintegration of refugees and IDPs in the northern governorates of Erbil and Dohuk. These projects aim to provide shelter kits to returnee families and to upgrade water supplies for returnees and host communities.
An Iraqi Property Claims Commission is being set up to help resolve the claims of returnees whose property was confiscated under previous regimes. A new Ministry of Displacement and Migration has been established to manage issues relating to Iraqi refugees and displaced people.
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assessment of shortages of drugs, other medical supplies and equipment. This is expected to be complete by March.
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