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Developing World

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking to tackle (a) famine and (b) disease epidemics in the developing world. [19824]

Mr. Thomas: In responding to famine, the Department for International Development (DFID) provides funding to the World Food Programme (£78 million in 2004, including approx £15 million through the European Community), Governments and non-governmental organisations. However, DFID also attaches considerable importance to disaster prevention. In the area of food security this includes supporting reforms in agricultural methods and promoting livelihoods that are less susceptible to the effects of famine, by working with partner governments, local communities and multilateral agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. DFID is also supporting the creation of social safety nets such as income support and social insurance, bans and grants. These aim to limit the numbers of people who require emergency food aid.

DFID's approach to tackling disease epidemics in the developed world is to balance prevention with reducing the impact of epidemics when they do occur. Where vaccines exist they are a very cost effective way of preventing disease. We therefore fund the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisations and Polio Eradication Initiative and also support the research and development of new vaccines and other preventive therapy for infectious diseases.
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Our support to multilateral organisations such as the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria are designed to both prevent epidemics happening and reduce the impact once they have occurred.

Our bilateral programmes in the health sector are designed to strengthen health systems both to prevent and mitigate the impact of epidemics. Getting well organised communicable disease control systems in place is crucial for effectively tackling diarrhoeal diseases, pneumonia and vaccine preventable disease epidemics as well as those associated with HIV, TB and Malaria.


John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken to ascertain the need for humanitarian assistance in (a) Malawi and (b) Niger. [19753]

Hilary Benn: Malawi has an early warning system, the Malawi Vulnerability System Committee (MVAC). DFID finances the secretariat. The MVAC made its first assessment of the need for humanitarian assistance as soon as harvest and other data were available and reported in May. By June, food aid was being delivered. 1.8 million people have received food aid to date; it is planned to feed 2.8 million by December. The MVAC is updating its assessment and will provide a preliminary revision next week, with a full reassessment by early November. DFID's commitment to humanitarian assistance for this year's food shortages in Malawi totals £15.32 million. The UK stands ready to do more if more people need to be fed.

In Niger, a major humanitarian relief operation has been under way over the past three months in response to a food crisis affecting an estimated three million people, with the lives of up to 150,000 children at risk. The humanitarian operation is now working at full capacity and has helped to avert a major catastrophe. The UK has played an important part, being one of the first donors to respond when the United Nations and NGO relief agencies alerted the world to the severity of the crisis. To date, around 2.8 million people have received food aid and more than 90,000 children have received life-saving nutritional therapy. Food is also under harvest, and thanks to good rains, a bumper crop is expected. Nonetheless, the relief effort will continue in the months ahead, with priority being given to the needs of malnourished children and to those who will not benefit fully or adequately from the new harvest. Much work also remains to help those who have suffered during the crisis to recover, and in the longer term to put in place welfare safety nets and other measures to help the most impoverished people of Niger avoid further crises of this kind. DFID sent a humanitarian adviser to Niger last June, to neighbouring countries in August, and to Niger again this month. On the basis of his report, we shall be reviewing needs, and options to provide humanitarian assistance to the recovery process.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what support his Department has provided to Niger in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [15120]

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Hilary Benn: DFID has not had a bilateral development assistance programme with Niger during the past five years, but does provide significant support through multilateral channels such as the United Nations agencies and the EC development programme, of which the estimated UK share amounted to £6.2 million in 2002. We have also provided debt relief, humanitarian assistance and small project support. Details are shown in the following table.

Having reached completion point under the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative in April 2004, Niger is now benefiting from increased debt relief, including £4.513 million (in 2004 net present value) on bilateral debts to the UK through the Paris Club. The UK will also provide US$915,190 (approximately £520,000) to Niger in 2005 as part of our multilateral debt relief initiative (to be superseded from next year by
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debt stock cancellation as recently agreed at the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In February, as part of efforts to strengthen Anglo-French cooperation on development issues in Africa, DFID agreed to provide £7 million initially through the French development programme in support of Niger's basic education policy, with particular emphasis on getting more girls into primary education.

In recent months DFID has made a significant contribution to the food relief operation in Niger. Our total support of £3.25 million is among the top three bilateral contributions, and amongst the quickest. Our funding is contributing to the general feeding of up to 1,700,000 people, nutritional therapy for up to 60,000 malnourished children, emergency health care for up to 1,750,000 vulnerable people, and emergency livestock interventions for up to 21,000 people.
Total UK aid to Niger

Financial Aid
HIPC Trust Funds126612,973
Wholly Financed Personnel: Long Term
Grant and Other Aid in Kind
Heads of Mission Projects and Gifts152035
JFS Accountable Grants130108585831
Civil Society Challenge Fund528
Humanitarian Assistance
Food Aid—through UN Channels
Disaster Relief—through NGO Channels
Disaster Relief—through UN Channels
Debt Relief
Naples Terms4,400
Toronto Terms137109825433
Trinidad Terms7101101009080


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what assistance he is providing to the people of the Atlantic Coast in Nicaragua; [20536]

(2) if he will make the disbursement of further UK funds in Nicaragua dependent upon a significant proportion of those funds being spent to help those on the Atlantic coast. [20537]

Mr. Thomas [holding answer 21 October 2005]: Poverty, both rural and urban, is pervasive in Nicaragua. While the figure for rural poverty in the Atlantic coast is higher than the rural average (77 per cent. compared to 64 per cent.) there are many other regions in the country displaying similar, or worse poverty indicators. Less than 20 per cent. of Nicaragua's poor live in the Atlantic coast. DFID, therefore, makes decisions on the extent and nature of its support on the basis of the Government's commitment to tackle poverty throughout the country rather than in just one part.

DFID does, however, recognise the particular challenges of the Atlantic coast. We seek to tackle these through a combination of direct support to the area and through high-level dialogue with the Government.

A significant proportion of DFID's programme directly benefits Nicaragua's Atlantic coast. Our HIV/AIDS programme has provided information and education services for specific vulnerable target groups, and has built capacity among local government and civil society to provide basic care for people living with HIV/AIDS. Part of the £850,000 of support in 2005–06 to help municipal Government initiatives tackle poverty will benefit the autonomous regions on the coast. We have helped to increase visibility of the region's challenges, and its potential contribution to development, by supporting the participation of Afro-descendent youth in debates on marginalisation and the
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dissemination of the United Nations development programme (UNDP)'s human development report for Nicaragua's Atlantic coast. DFID support to the 2005 census is contributing to the better identification of the poverty on the coast, thereby enabling more effective targeting of resources in the future. DFID has also begun discussions with the Presidential Commission for Competitiveness to explore how the bilateral programme can support market access for small enterprises and rural producers in the region.

DFID uses its position as a member of the influential group of donors providing budgetary support to challenge the economic and political marginalisation of the region, and seek opportunities to demonstrate its potential contribution to national development. Participation in this group also enables DFID to advocate increased spending on social sectors and employment generation in the national budget. My visit to Nicaragua last year enabled me to press specific issues of the Atlantic coast, such as land rights, when I met with President Bolanos.

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