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Hilary Benn: The members of the Commission for Africa are still working on their report and have not yet set a date for publication. Subject to discussion at the next full meeting of the Commission in February, the report may be published around the middle of March.
Mr. Alan Duncan:
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his budget is for spending on heavily indebted poor countries debt relief
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in (a) 200506, (b) 200607 and (c) 200708 from (i)existing departmental spending plans and (ii) sources additional to those plans. 
Hilary Benn: DFID's contribution to HIPC debt relief covers the UK pledge to the HIPC Trust Fund and the UK's policy of going beyond the requirements of HIPC to cancel 100 per cent. of all bilateral debts to HIPC countries. The vast majority of HIPC debt write-off is financed by the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD).
It is not possible to predict accurately how much the 100 per cent. bilateral policy will cost DFID because the amount that will be cancelled under HIPC requirements (financed by ECGD) is not yet known. DFID has provisionally budgeted £14 million in 200506, £25 million in 200607 and £10 million in 200708.
In addition, many HIPC countries will benefit from the UK's new multilateral debt relief initiative. The total DFID budget for this initiative is £30 million in 200506, £40 million in 200607 and £50 million in 200708. HIPC countries account for approximately 70 per cent. of the total cost.
Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many of his Department's employees in each country in receipt of development aid from the UK were of (a) UK nationality, (b) local origin and (c) other origin in the latest year for which figures are available. 
Mr. Gareth Thomas: Details of DFID current staff shown by local origin and by UK and other nationality are set out in the following table. We are unable to provide figures for UK nationality as a separate category as such data is provided by staff on a voluntary basis and thus any figures may not be completely accurate.
|Country||Number of UK based staff||Number of staff|
of local origin
|Serbia and Montenegro||2||4||6|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||5||0||5|
David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what progress has been made in determining the details of the system replacing food rations with cash payments in Iraq; and if he will make a statement. 
The Government of Iraq has said that it is committed over the medium term, to enhancing the effectiveness of social safety nets in Iraq by moving from a food ration system, which handed out virtually free food to the entire population of Iraq, to a cash distribution system targeted at the poor and unemployed. The aim will be to help domestic agriculture, encourage private trade and remove price distortions, at the same time as ensuring that families in need are properly safeguarded. The details have yet to be determined, and are expected to be followed up by the Iraqi Transitional Government after the forthcoming elections. DFID supports the reform in principle. DFID staff and advisers will continue to maintain contact with the Iraqi authorities, and with interested international organisations including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Food Programme, to ensure that the interests of poor and vulnerable families in Iraq are protected.
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Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what assessment his Department has made of the impact on (a) food supplies and (b) the economic situation of individuals in southern Mauritania of the locust invasion of 2004; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what assessment his Department has made of the (a) economic, (b) social and (c) humanitarian situation in (i) Mauritania and (ii) southern Mauritania with reference to (A) the recurrent drought since 2001 and (B) the 2004 locust invasion; and if he will make a statement. 
Hilary Benn: Mauritania is poor and often short of its food staples. A high proportion of the population relies on agricultural production to satisfy its food and income needs. During prolonged drought, communities may go hungry through poor yields or lack of recourse to alternative sources of income. In 2004 Mauritania was badly affected by the worst invasion of locusts in West Africa for 15 years. Millet and legumes suffered serious damage; sorghum and rice were less affected. Access to food is already posing problems for many households, both rural and urban, which are directly or indirectly affected by the crisis. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 2004 production will only amount to 64 per cent. of the 5-year average. More food imports, including food aid, may be required. DFID stands ready to contribute to urgent humanitarian needs in Mauritania, and other countries in West Africa.
DFID provided £1.5 million to the FAO's emergency international appeal for locust control and eradication operations in West Africa in 2004. UK funding assisted the immediate emergency control of swarms until December 2004. The European Commission is providing €23.5 million (£16.33 million, UK share about £3 million) to assist those countries worst affected. The FAO operations may need to be continued in northern Mauritania to counter remaining immature swarms gathered there, and also in the Mahgreb countries until the spring, to reduce the scale of potential re-infestation of the Sahel in summer 2005.
In 200203 DFID contributed £1 million to the World Food Programme's regional appeal, which covered five countries in the region, but was mainly focused on Mauritania where the drought situation was most severe. DFID also contributed £0.5 million to an Oxfam appeal focused on the most badly affected areas in the south of the country.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what assessment his Department has made of the UN World Food Programme appeal on 17 January for assistance to Mauritania over the next three years; what plans his Department has made to respond to the appeal; what changes are planned for the budget to be allocated to Mauritania; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what assessment his Department has made of the food-for-work projects envisaged by the UN World Food Progamme for the distribution of food aid in Mauritania; and if he will make a statement. 
Hilary Benn: The UN World Food Programme (WFP) appeal for US$30.8 million for Mauritania issued on 17 January aims to provide food aid to 400,000 people in 33 of the most vulnerable communities until 2007. About 60 per cent. of the proposal is for creation of productive assets through food for work activities, the construction of small dams, and improving village water supplies. These activities may be useful, but DFID believes that the sustained developmental impact of food aid is limited. DFID stands ready to contribute to urgent humanitarian needs in Mauritania, and other countries in West Africa.
DFID does not have a bilateral development partnership with Mauritania, but does provide a significant amount through multilateral channels, mainly the EC programme, of which the UK share amounted to some £6 million in 2003. We have also provided humanitarian assistance in recent years in response to the severe drought and food shortages.
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