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Hilary Benn: DFID has been closely monitoring the deteriorating nutritional situation in Niger, and recently conducted a humanitarian assessment in the Sahel region. DFID was one of the first donors to respond to the recent UN Flash Appeal providing, on 10 June 2005, an immediate initial donation of £500,000 to the World Food Programme's emergency food operation, which supplies food and nutritional inputs to up to one million highly vulnerable households.
Following its recent assessment of the food security situation in the region, DFID has agreed to provide an additional £1,500,000 in humanitarian assistance to Niger, mainly through non-governmental organisations. This support will be focused on nutritional therapy, basic health care, improving food access and protection of livelihoods in the worst affected areas and will benefit up to one million people. We shall continue to monitor developments closely.
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which African Union countries have had their country reviewed under the
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Africa Peer Review Mechanism of the New Partnership for African Development; and what assessment he has made of the findings of the reviews. 
Hilary Benn: Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya and Mauritius signed up to the Africa Peer Review Mechanism in 2003 and are the first wave of countries currently undergoing peer review. Country review missions have been undertaken in Ghana and Rwanda and reports have been submitted to the respective governments. A summary of the Ghana report has been made publicly available. The formal peer review is then scheduled to take place in August 2005 at the next African Peer Review (APR) Forum (which consists of participating African Heads of State).
Hilary Benn: General Ward was appointed by the United States as Co-ordinator for Security Sector Reform in February. He is leading the mission established to facilitate reform of the Palestinian security forces following the 1 March London Meeting on Supporting the Palestinian Authority (PA). His mission has made progress with the PA in consolidating and restructuring the Palestinian security forces, although further reform is still required.
The UK fully supports General Ward's mission, and has seconded a governance expert to his team. We are also supporting security sector reform through our contributions to the European Union Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUCOPPS). This has provided equipment and technical and operational assistance to the Palestinian civil police, and has worked with them to develop a Palestinian Civil Police Development Plan. This plan is now being implemented.
Dan Norris: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what progress is being made in coordinating stronger ties between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in order to address Palestinian poverty. 
Hilary Benn: Mr. James Wolfensohn, Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement, has identified six priority areas for joint working between Israelis and Palestinians in his plans for a successful Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. These include freedom of movement and trade for Palestinians, a transport link between Gaza and the West Bank, and an airport and seaport for Gaza. Some progress has been made, but there is still work to be done.
Co-operation between the two parties and an easing of Israeli restrictions on movement of goods and people are essential for successful Palestinian economic regeneration and poverty reduction. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, needs to maintain and develop its programme of reforms. The UK is working closely with
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international partners on these fronts. The Government fully supports Mr. Wolfensohn's efforts and DFID has seconded a member of staff to his team to assist.
Dan Norris: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what cooperation his Department has received from members of the Arab League in alleviating poverty in the Palestinian Territories. 
Mr. James Wolfensohn, Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement, briefed G8 leaders at the Gleneagles summit on his plans to support Palestinian development in the context of disengagement and beyond. He received the full backing of G8 leaders. Mr. Wolfensohn has proposed contributions of up to $3 billion annually for the next 3 years from the international community. It is important that all those who are working for progress, including Arab states, support this initiative.
Hilary Benn: Free movement of goods and people between the West Bank and Gaza will be essential for Palestinian economic regeneration following Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. Mr. James Wolfensohn, Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement, has identified the provision of a transport link between Gaza and the West Bank as one of six priority areas for joint action between Israelis and Palestinians. Current proposals include the use of convoys of buses, the construction of a sunken road, and a rail link. A committee, chaired by Mr. Wolfensohn, will study options for the future. The UK, along with other members of the international community, fully supports Mr. Wolfensohn's efforts.
Dr. Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will discuss with the Secretary of State for Education and Skills establishing a scheme to twin schools in this country with schools in Africa. 
[holding answer 19 July 2005]: We are already working closely with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) on school twinning schemes. This fits with DFID objectives and with the DfES International Strategy. We fund a Global School Partnerships programme, which links schools in the UK with schools in developing countries; whereas the DfES has developed the Global Gateway, an international website to help schools find partner schools in other countries. Through the Global Gateway, the DfES has supported the BBC World Class project which links 1,000 schools in Africa with 1,000 schools in UK. Together with the DfES, DFID also provides co-funding for 80 places per year, specifically for teachers from developing countries, under the DfES Teachers' International Professional Development programme.
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|Total||Average per employee|
The figures given above, which relate only to home civil servants and those employed by DFID on UK fixed term contracts, are contained in the annual report Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service" published by the Cabinet Office. The most recent, covering the 2003 calendar year, was announced by ministerial statement on 1 November 2004. Copies are available in the Libraries of the House.
At 1 April 2005, DFID also employed some 990 locally engaged staff, or staff appointed in country (SAIC), to serve in its network of overseas offices. Sickness absence records for SAIC are not held centrally and information on the number of working days lost due to sickness for these employees could be obtained only by incurring a disproportionate cost.
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