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Despite recent surveys showing mortality and malnutrition rates in Darfur below emergency thresholds, the situation remains critical. Around 1.8 million people are displaced, almost entirely reliant on humanitarian assistance.
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The recent upsurge in violence in West Darfur has caused the UN and other agencies to reduce staffing levels, and limit access to some areas. Although the UN is implementing contingency plans, any prolonged period without access will inevitably have a harmful effect on the population.
The UN launched its humanitarian workplan for 2006 last month. $650 million is being sought for Darfur. We have committed £40 million to the overall programme, and are encouraging other donors to respond generously.
Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking to ensure that international donors fulfil their pledges for $4.5 billion for humanitarian aid in Southern Sudan. 
Hilary Benn: Approximately $4.5 billion was pledged for Sudan at last April's Oslo Donors' Conference. These pledges related to the whole of Sudan, including Darfur, not just to the south, and were for both humanitarian and development needs over the three years 200507.
It is important that these pledges are converted into cash. There will be an opportunity to formally review how well this is progressing at the donors' conference in Paris in early March, where there will undoubtedly be pressure on donors to fulfil their earlier pledges. We know that of the $194 million pledged for the first year of the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for development assistance, some $150 million has already been paid in, over $100 million of this is for the south. Last year, donors also contributed or firmly committed over $1 billion in humanitarian assistance.
Nevertheless, Sudan's needs remain acute, and we continue to take every suitable opportunity to encourage other donors to respond as generously as they can. We have particularly sought to persuade donors to contribute to the newly established Common Humanitarian Fund, administered by the UN. Sudan remains a priority country for DFID, and this year we will spend over £100 million there on aid.
Hilary Benn: Despite recent surveys by the UN showing that average crude mortality and malnutrition rates in Darfur have fallen below emergency thresholds, the situation there remains critical. According to the UN, approximately 1.8 million people remain displaced in the region. They remain almost entirely reliant on humanitarian assistance.
The recent upsurge in violence and tension in West Darfur has led to the UN raising its security level to phase 4 (the highest before evacuation), causing the UN and other agencies to reduce staffing levels, and severely limiting access to some areas of the state. Although the UN is working hard to implement contingency plans, any prolonged period without access will inevitably have a harmful affect on the population.
The UN launched its Sudan-wide humanitarian work plan for 2006 last month. $650 million is being sought for the international response in Darfur. DFID has
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already committed £40 million to the overall programme, and are encouraging other donors to respond as generous as they can.
Such attacks are abhorrent and unacceptable. We have made clear to the Government of Sudan that more must be done to provide security for the people of Darfur, and that the perpetrators must be brought to justice. Last month, the UK with other representatives of the international community, participated in a joint mission to assess human rights in West Darfur. The mission paid specific attention to sexual violence, and produced a number of recommendations. We are pressing the Government of Sudan to implement these as a matter of urgency.
With our partners, we are encouraging the Africa Union Mission in Darfur to scale up patrols and provide protection for women and girls when they leave their camps. Where this happens the number of reported rapes has decreased significantly. Next month the UN will launch a new information system that will record details of all incidents of sexual and gender-based violence, better data helping to ensure better prospects of prosecution. Separately, DFID is providing funding for protection as part of our humanitarian and rule of law programmes.
Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on UK Government (a) aid and (b) humanitarian assistance projects in the Darfur region of Sudan. 
Hilary Benn: We are responding generously to the humanitarian needs of Sudan, including Darfur, contributing £70 million in 2005. We are doing this by directly supporting the UN humanitarian work plan, and by our funding of international NGOs and other agencies.
In the main, our funding is not earmarked for any specific region, but a substantial proportion of our work plan contribution goes to the principal UN agencies working in Darfur, such as UNICEF (water and sanitation, especially in camps for displaced people), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Food Programme (emergency food supplies). Of the main international NGOs working in Darfur, we are supporting Oxfam (water); Goal (provision of basic humanitarian services); Me"decins Sans Frontières (health care); Action Contre Faim (nutrition); and CARE (non-food humanitarian items). We are also supporting the International Committee of the Red Cross, who are working in priority areas of Darfur, often beyond the reach of other humanitarian agencies.
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12. Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what means are available to the Department to use the allocation of overseas aid to create incentives for the Ethiopian Government to improve the political situation in that country. 
Hilary Benn: HMG had previously agreed to provide direct budget support to Ethiopia. The terms of that agreement included mutual commitments, including commitments to the principles of good governance and democracy. In my view, recent political events amount to a breach of trust, and so I have decided that, in the current circumstances, DFID will not provide budget support but will seek to find other means to support the poorest in Ethiopia. I have emphasised to Prime Minister Meles that the only way to resolve the current political crisis is through inclusive political dialogue and the continuation of the democratisation process which we are ready to support. Our future assistance to Ethiopia will be designed with increased monitoring and accountability so we can be sure that the aid reaches the poor people who need it.
Hilary Benn: I refer the hon. Member for Banbury to the response I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), on 23 January 2006, Official Report, column 1740W.
13. Mr. Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how his Department is assisting the Pakistani authorities to cope with winter conditions in the earthquake zone; and if he will make a statement. 
DFID is airlifting further urgently needed items including 176,000 blankets, 125,000 16.6 metre ropes and 125,000 plastic sheets to reinforce tents that are not winterised. DFID is also delivering an additional 3,500 winterised tents.
DFID continues to channel support through UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to ensure the provision of relief assistance throughout winter, including support to camp management, shelter, health, water and sanitation.
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