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Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment his Department has made of access to healthcare for children in Zambia; and if he will make a statement. 
Immunisation coverage is increasing (defined as fully immunised by age 1) and has risen from 80 per cent. in 2004 to 87 per cent. in 2006.(1)
The prevalence of underweight children is also declining. 17 per cent. of children were defined as underweight in 2004, but in 2006 this had fallen to 14 per cent.(2)
Infant mortality (deaths under the age of one) has seen a decline from 109 per 1,000 in 1996, to 95 per 1000 in 2002.(3)
Child mortality (deaths under the age of five) has also seen a decline from 197 per 1000 in 1996, to 168 per 1000 in 2002.(4)
Access to AIDS treatment (antiretroviral drugs) for children has also increased, with 7,500 children currently on treatment. This represents 10 per cent. of all those on AIDS treatment in Zambia today. The Zambian Government's goal is that 15 per cent. of all those on antiretroviral treatment should be children.(5)
(1) Zambia's Health Management Information System - Ministry of Health 2007.
(2) Zambia's Health Management Information System - Ministry of Health 2007
(3) Demographic and Health Survey 1996 and 2002
(4) Demographic and Health Survey 1996 and 2002
(5) UNAIDS 2007
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 8 February 2007, Official Report, columns 1070-71W, on Afghanistan, what the Government's response has been to each urgent operational requirement request from forces in Afghanistan since January 2006; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: As a general rule, once an urgent statement of user requirement has been endorsed by the military chain of command and is therefore progressed as an urgent operational requirement (UOR), a business case is drafted and, subject to scrutiny, approved, and the equipment procured and delivered to theatre.
There are some cases where UORs are not progressed in this way, for example when it is decided that the equipment required can be provided from in-service stocks, or if the capability gap can be filled by using existing equipment in a new way. Alternatively, as the situation on the ground can change so rapidly, the military chain of command may re-assess the requirement.
As the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are still ongoing, detailed information regarding specific UORs remains operationally sensitive, and its release would, or would be likely to, prejudice the security of our armed forces.
Des Browne: The joint ISAF-ANA report on the incident in Panjwayi on 24-25 October 2006 estimated the number of civilians killed in the incident to be around 30. The loss of innocent lives is a tragedy and ISAF and coalition forces seek at all times to avoid civilian casualties.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his oral statement of 26 February 2007, Official Report, column 625, on Afghanistan (force levels), what his definition is of the long term; and what steps he is taking to mitigate against potential damage to the armed forces of current operational tempo. 
Our current planning priority is to see through our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The level of operational deployments is reducing and we judge that it will return to within the level assumed
in our planning assumptions. Some of the measures to reduce the burden on personnel include: reducing the level of non-operational tasking; regularly reviewing the scale and mix of personnel deployed; increasing recruitment and training; and providing financial and non-financial incentives for retention.
Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will take steps to bring the standard of base protection in Iraqi bases occupied by British troops up to the level of that maintained at Kandahar air base in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) if he will publish on his Departments website information on the techniques employed at (a) Basra air station and (b) other bases in Iraq occupied by British personnel along the lines of the information available on the base protection techniques at Kandahar air base. 
Mr. Ingram: The threat faced by British troops at the NATO base at Kandahar air station is very different to that faced by British troops in bases within Iraq. Therefore the protection measures employed will be different at each base but will be appropriate to the threat. An audit of the force protection measures at bases in Basra has taken place recently and work is ongoing to build on the measures that are already in use.
The information on the Departments website is reviewed periodically and appropriate information, which will not compromise operational security, will continue to be placed on the website with respect to UK military operations.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many personnel of HM Forces have (a) lost their lives and (b) been wounded as a result of land mines in Afghanistan since the beginning of operations in 2002. 
Mr. Ingram: Since the beginning of operations in Afghanistan, three UK fatalities have been confirmed as being caused by land mines. Since March 2006, some information has been gathered regarding the number of personnel wounded by land mines. It is estimated that since this date approximately 16 military personnel have been wounded as a result of land mines; however, this figure may not be entirely reliable because some very minor injuries may not be reported, and because it is not always possible to ascertain whether an incident is caused by a land mine or an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
Mr. Ingram: HM forces in Afghanistan are there as part of a peace-enforcement operation. However, the character of any particular campaign is rarely static and its intensity can vary over time. This requires UK forces to conduct a wide range of military activities concurrently, and transition quickly from one type of operation to another. This is evident in the way in which UK forces are involved in frequent engagements with the Taliban while simultaneously assisting in reconstruction activities. Nevertheless, the aims of the ISAF mission remain to stabilise the security environment so that the Provincial Reconstruction Team and other agencies can operate to extend the Government's authority, to improve the rule of law, and to facilitate reconstruction and development, particularly by supporting capacity-building in the security sector.
Mr. Ingram: Unofficial estimates of the number of land mines in Afghanistan vary between 5 million and 7 million and the most recent land mine impact survey identified some 715 square kilometres of hazardous areas. There are numerous mine action programmes under way in Afghanistan with some 9,500 Afghans working for organisations coordinated by the UN Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan.
Mr. Ingram: The 51 mm mortar is in service in Afghanistan but is approaching its planned out of service date across the armed forces. Ammunition stocks have been prioritised in order to continue to support its use in Afghanistan. The capability provided by the 51 mm mortar will be replaced by a combination of systems including the 40 mm Underslung Grenade Launcher and rocket hand-fired illumination and smoke rounds. In Afghanistan, this capability is being augmented by a purchase of a more modern and supportable 60 mm mortar.
Mr. Carswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent (a) representations he has had on and (b) assessment he has made of the availability of Viper thermal imaging sets for British troops in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: There are four return Tristar flights per week on the airbridge to Afghanistan. This requirement is met by one aircraft plus one reserve. Only Tristars that are fitted with defensive measures fly the Afghanistan airbridge. The majority of RAF Tristars are now fitted with defensive measures.
Mr. Ingram: Operational reliability is assessed by the numbers of aircraft that are deemed as fit for purpose (FFP) against the planned average FFP figure. Aircraft are deemed fit for purpose if they are capable of undertaking the required task on a given day. Aircraft are not available for tasking if they are undergoing scheduled maintenance, modification programmes or any unforeseen rectification work that can arise .on a day to day basis. The figures do not reflect the fact that an aircraft assessed as not fit for purpose may be returned to the front line at very short notice to meet the operational need. The planned average FFP for the Tristar aircraft for 2006-07 is 4.8 aircraft per day. As at the end of February 2007 we have achieved a FFP figure of 4.62 aircraft per day for the same period, largely owing to the ongoing programme to fit defensive measures to the Tristar.
Mr. Carswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of Tristar flights (a) to and (b) from Afghanistan were delayed for (i) aircraft maintenance and (ii) other reasons in the last period for which figures are available. 
|UK to Afghanistan||Afghanistan to UK|
The other reasons for delays include adverse weather and air traffic delays. The percentage delayed for other reasons is higher for the return leg as this figure includes delay due to the knock-on effect of the late arrival of the inbound aircraft to theatre.
Mr. Carswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the UK deployment of Apache helicopters to Afghanistan has been affected by technical problems; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: While any aircraft will require routine maintenance during deployment, the Apache has not been affected by significant technical problems. Apaches on Operation Herrick are receiving top priority for spare parts and maintenance, and are in fact delivering more flying hours than asked for. The Apache has successfully delivered on the tasks that it has undertaken, and reports from theatre have been very positive about this capability.
It has occasionally been necessary to cannibalise aircraft in the Depth Sustainment Fleet in the UK to satisfy high priority demands for deployed UK Apache helicopters. It is possible that Apache in Afghanistan may have been maintained using cannibalised parts, from aircraft going back to the Apache Depth Pulse line maintenance system at Wattisham, though this is not a frequent practice.
Mr. Ingram: Currently there are no Welsh regiments, or elements thereof, deployed in Afghanistan. At any given time, however, there will be a number of individual augmentees on operations, including those in Afghanistan. These may include a number from Welsh regiments.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the Board of Inquiry into the loss of Hercules XV206 in Afghanistan to complete its investigation; when he plans to publish the findings; and if he will make a statement. 
Provisional estimates collated from manual records show that no 16 or 17-year-old personnel have been deployed to Afghanistan since the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the rights of the child on the involvement of children in armed conflict was ratified on 24 June 2003.
New administrative guidelines and procedures have been introduced by each of the services following the ratification of the Optional Protocol to ensure that under 18 year old personnel are not deployed to areas where hostilities are taking place unless there is a clear operational requirement for them to do so.
Derek Twigg: Bulk delivery of the Royal Air Force desktop calendar to Members of Parliament was made by the Defence Storage Distribution Agency (DSDA) at Llangennech. All stocks intended for delivery to the House of Commons were despatched by DSDA Llangennech on 20 November 2006. In accordance with House of Commons bulk mail procedures the consignment was addressed to House of Commons, 1 Cannon Row, London, SW1A 2JN, and it was anticipated that the consignment would have been received by 26 November 2006. Each calendar packet was individually pre-addressed to MPs to facilitate speedy delivery by the House of Commons mail system.
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