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24 Jan 2005 : Column 21W—continued

Electronic Devices

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many electronic devices are owned by the Department, broken down by type. [207677]

Hilary Benn: DFID has records of the following electronic devices:
Desktop personal computers (worldwide)3,433
Portable personal computers (worldwide)1,513
Server computers (worldwide)540
Handheld computers (worldwide)834
Mobile phones (UK only)467
Printers (UK only)682
Plasma screens (UK only)43
Video conference units (UK only)76
Fax machines (UK only)62

The asset registry is currently being expanded to include printers, screens, video conference units and fax machines at overseas locations. At present, records relating to these types of equipment are only held locally and summary figures are not available without incurring a disproportionate cost.

Mobile phones are purchased locally at each office. The figures show the number of mobile phones on the UK contract. The numbers at each overseas office cannot be provided without incurring a disproportionate cost.

Freedom of Information

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what categories of information are available under Freedom of Information legislation that have not been provided in written parliamentary answers by his Department in the last three years. [207811]

Hilary Benn: The Freedom of Information Act does not make specific categories of information available, but operates on the presumption that all information held by public authorities should be available, subject to the 24 exemptions of the Act.

Whether or not information is exempt under the Act requires the exercise of judgment in each case. The majority of the exemptions also require that the public interest in releasing the information should be weighed against the public interest in withholding it. If the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in withholding it the information must be disclosed. The assessment of the public interest has to be made in all the circumstances of the case, on a case by case basis as far as each request is concerned. Therefore it is not possible to provide the information requested.
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HIV/AIDS Action Programme

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what discussions he is having with (a) members of the European Parliament and (b) the Council of Ministers to ensure that orphans and vulnerable children are given the necessary priority in the Programme for Action and the new EU Development Policy; [209070]

(2) if he will make representations to EU counterparts that the EU give the same priority to orphans and vulnerable children as the UK in its HIV/AIDS Programme for Action. [209066]

Hilary Benn: Along with other member states, DFID is engaging in the consultation process towards a new Programme for Action on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis which the EC expects to adopt in 2006. The current Programme for Action does not address orphans and vulnerable children but we will consider how best to address this gap in the forthcoming consultations. Discussions on the new EU Development Policy have only just started. The Commission has produced a "Consultation on the future of EU Development Policy Issues Paper", which includes consideration of the broad themes of "Development of human resources and citizens' rights" and "Combating inequality and promoting social cohesion", both of which are likely to include consideration of orphans and vulnerable children. Consultations with members of the European Parliament and other member states will take place in due course.


Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent reports he has received on the state of Iraq's health care system; and what action his Department is taking to improve the level of basic health care in Iraq. [208728]

Hilary Benn: Iraqi health care faces enormous and longstanding challenges which pre-date the 2003 conflict. However, the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) has already taken a number of positive steps to strengthen public health services. For example, funding to the health service has increased significantly since April 2003. In addition, through the multi-donor trust funds managed by the United Nations and the World Bank, about $1 billion is available for Iraqi priorities in health and other sectors. Salaries have improved and charges largely abolished, providing free access to health care for all. The Iraqi Ministry of Health, with support from the United Nations, has also developed a set of Planning Guidelines for 2005 which set out national priorities and the objectives and standards that the Ministry expect to achieve.

DFID support is focussed on primary health care, through the provision of professional advice to the Ministry of Health in Baghdad and Basra, and a £5 million grant through the World Health Organisation (WHO). Additional DFID support for health services in Iraq is channelled through the multi-donor trust funds managed by the United Nations and the World Bank. DFID has made an initial contribution of £70 million to these trust funds.
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Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent reports he has received on levels of acute malnutrition amongst Iraqi children up to the age of five years; and what action his Department is taking to reduce levels of child malnutrition in Iraq. [208729]

Hilary Benn: The most recent national survey of nutritional status conducted in Iraq took place in the second quarter of 2004 by the Iraqi Central Office of Statistics and Information Technology, with technical support from the Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies, Norway. This survey found that 7.5 per cent. of children under five years old were acutely malnourished, defined as low weight for a given height. A UNICEF survey conducted in 2000 found that 6.4 per cent. of children of the same age group were acutely malnourished. Another survey was subsequently conducted in 2002 but it was not nationally representative, and therefore direct comparisons are not valid.

All surveys are subject to a certain amount of imprecision and it is not possible to state whether the apparent increase from 6.4 per cent. to 7.5 per cent. reflects a real trend. General child malnutrition—defined as weight for age—showed a marked improvement over the same period, falling from 17.3 per cent. to 11.7 per cent.

Reducing levels of acute malnutrition means ensuring that adequate supplies of food reach the poorest families whilst also working to tackle poverty and ensure equitable distribution of wealth in the long term. DFID helped to ensure that Iraq's Public Distribution System (PDS) for food was re-established quickly after the conflict in 2003. DFID is now supporting the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) in the development of economic policies which will protect the poorest in Iraq who are dependent on the PDS, whilst reducing the economic distortions created by distributing food, virtually free, to the entire population. The PDS currently accounts for 12.5 per cent. of Iraqi Government expenditure. DFID is also developing a programme aimed at strengthening Iraqi Government capacity to implement pro-poor employment and social protection policies. In addition, DFID programmes in employment generation and political participation are aimed at reducing poverty and ensuring that the needs of the most vulnerable in Iraq are addressed in Government policies.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate his Department has made of the numbers of children attending schools in Iraq not receiving a nutritional dinner each day; what percentage of the total number attending school this amounts to; and if he will make a statement. [208730]

Hilary Benn: There are no current data sources available of nutritional content of children's dinners in Iraq. DFID is helping the Iraqi Government in the implementation of pro-poor economic policies designed to reduce poverty across Iraq and ensure adequate social safety nets for those most in need.

Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what research is being conducted on the impact of the war on Iraqi (a) health and (b) mortality. [209458]

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Hilary Benn: The most recent research focusing on health and mortality in Iraq has been published by Medact, a non-governmental organisation, and by The Lancet.

The Medact report, published in November 2004, was critical of the Iraqi health system, but recognised that the institutional weaknesses were longstanding and pre-date the 2003 conflict and that the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH) was addressing these. Medact also acknowledged that health data on Iraq are patchy, often unreliable and that their consultants were unable to visit Iraq to collect field data due to the security situation. The Iraqi MoH has issued a swift and strong rebuttal of the Medact report.

Improving health services presents major challenges and will take time. Despite security constraints, steady progress is being made, and many more hospitals are now functioning and have better access to medicines. Since the Medact survey was conducted the MoH have produced Planning Guidelines for 2005, with support from donors, to meet these challenges. The UN and World Bank managed multi-donor trust funds provide support to the health sector, focusing on the improvement of emergency and primary health care services, which affect the poorest and most vulnerable. DFID has contributed £70 million to the multi-donor trust funds and has also provided technical assistance to the MoH.

The Lancet article of 29 October 2004, looked at mortality in Iraq. As the Foreign Secretary explained in his written statement to Parliament on 17 November 2004, Official Report, column 93WS, the Government believe that the Iraqi authorities remain in the best position to monitor the casualties of their nationals.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the Answer of 17 January 2005, Official Report, columns 686–87W, on Iraq, how many families from Fallujah have received the $100 welfare payment; how many households have received the $200 payment from US military forces; how much in welfare payments has been distributed by the Iraqi authorities through banks in the areas where they are living; how much the Department has spent on people displaced from Fallujah; and what provision has been made for the health needs of the residents of Fallujah who have been displaced from the city. [209936]

Hilary Benn: The Iraqi Ministry of Finance has reported that it began to distribute welfare payments of $100 to Fallujan families from seven bank branches on 13 January. Information is not available on how many families have received this payment to date.

US military forces began making payments of $200 to Fallujan families on 13 January. By 19 January they had issued 32,546 payments amounting to approximately $6.5 million. Since the estimated number of Fallujan households is around 36,000, the US military anticipate completing payments soon.

DFID's response to the needs of the people of Fallujah has been through the deployment of advisers to the Iraqi Interim Government on humanitarian, health and coordination issues. One consultant was contracted specifically to work on humanitarian coordination in and around Fallujah. Other DFID staff and
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consultants, either already in Iraq or assigned from headquarters, also contributed to the effort. The cost of this work is being absorbed within existing programmes. Direct financial support for the people of Fallujah, and for the reconstruction of the city, is being provided largely from Iraqi and United States sources.

The Iraqi Ministry of Health assessed the needs of Fallujah's displaced population and provided additional staff and medical supplies to the clinics and hospitals in the areas where most of those people were living. Fallujah General Hospital and two primary care clinics in Fallujah are open to provide care for people returning to the city.

Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much has been spent by the UK Government on reconstruction in Iraq, in each month since April 2003. [210601]

Hilary Benn: Monthly DFID expenditure on assistance to Iraq since April 2003 has been:

(2) Up to 20 January
Months with particularly large expenditures were those in which contributions were made to multilateral organisations.

Total DFID expenditure on assistance to Iraq since April 2003 has been £242,590,932.

Spending by other Government Departments over the same period on activities related to reconstruction in Iraq were:
£ million
Foreign and Commonwealth Office38
Ministry of Defence20
Global Conflict Prevention Pool (joint DFID, FCO
and MOD

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