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6 Nov 2002 : Column 269continued
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Ms Sally Keeble): My Department worked very hard to get international agreement to the sanitation target, and we are now working to achieve the target through partner countries' strategies for poverty reduction. More than half the world's population have no access to sanitationa situation that contributes directly to diseases that kill more than 2 million children every year. My
Mr. Chaytor : Does my hon. Friend agree that action on sanitation has to be seen in the context of the other millennium targets on poverty reduction, water and energy? Following the sustainable development summit in Johannesburg in September, is she more optimistic that these targets will be achieved, or less optimistic?
Ms Keeble: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that those targets fit together as a package, and we are achieving more success with some of them than with others. The targets relating to child health and maternal health are probably the most difficult to meet, and sub-Saharan Africa presents more difficulties than other parts of the world. However, we are very confident, and we are working carefully towards achieving the target on sanitation and access to clean water.
Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): [Interruption.] In welcoming the commitment to provide proper sanitation for 800 million of the world's poorest people, will the Minister admit that, unfortunately, that was one of relatively few specific commitments agreed to at the Johannesburg world summit on sustainable development? Will she have a word with her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development to ask the Leader of the House to do all that he can to provide at the earliest opportunity in the new Session a debate on that summit, which was one of the most important ever?
Ms Keeble: I am not sure what the reason was for the congratulations offered to the hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his question. As he is an engineer, he will know a great deal about the provision of water[Interruption.] Okay, he is a building engineer.
Ms Keeble: I am delighted to hear that. The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) knows a great deal about the provision of water and sanitation. Our assessment of the world summit on sustainable development was that it was a great success. The commitment to which he refers was a key one, and it will contribute to improving the health of, and saving the lives of, 2 million children a yeara very substantial achievement. On his other comments, my right hon. Friend has doubtless heard them and will take note of them.
Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon): Does my hon. Friend accept that debt relief is one of the most effective ways of poor countries reaching the millennium development goals for sanitation? Is she urging her counterparts in other countries and, most importantly, the multinational institutions to match at least the Government's record on debt relief? In particular, does not she think that a list of shame of those countries that
Ms Keeble: I certainly agree that the Government have led the world in the initiative on debt relief and that it is important that other countries fulfil their commitments, too, but, in addition to the spending on sanitation and water infrastructure, it is also important that we have proper management, regulation and educational programmes so that we can achieve the millennium development goal that has been set. My Department has also led the world in the financial commitments and in working with partner Governments to ensure that we achieve that goal.
Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): We strongly support the Secretary of State's commitment to reducing by half the number of people in the world without sanitation, but it is most disappointing to hear that there will be only a couple of million pounds extra in the aid budget. Can we really see no more commitment than that? After all, the Johannesburg summit cost #33 million, but all we get is #2 million.
Ms Keeble : The amount of money that I mentioned was only for the bilateral programme. I did not include, because it cannot completely set out, the amount of money that we spend through the country programme, to which I also referred, and the substantial amount of money that goes through the multilateral programme. We are leading the way in terms of the amount of money and the technical assistance that we provide, as well as the work that we are doing to ensure that not only is the infrastructure provided, but the management, regulation and education that goes with it. We are making a major contribution towards saving 2 million children a year.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): In southern Africa, the number in need of food and other urgent humanitarian assistance is growing and will reach 14 million by March next year. The United Nations appeal is only 40 per cent. funded. The United Kingdom is the second largest donor after the United States. I am working to encourage my colleagues in other countries to increase their commitment. This is a very complex crisis. The drought is badly exacerbated by weaknesses in governance and economic management in Zambia and Malawi and by gross misgovernment in Zimbabwe. Levels of HIV/AIDS infection have weakened populations now facing serious malnourishment. The international community has not yet responded adequately to the crisis, and it is likely to escalate badly. I fear that we will see a terrible catastrophe.
Mr. Luke: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I, like her, have been involved in discussions with non-governmental organisations and have taken part in debates on the unfolding human tragedy in
Clare Short: I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend, and the situation is very worrying. For such a serious crisis, to have only 40 per cent. funding for the UN appeal is very unusual. My guess is that that is because of the reputation of President Mugabe, but the people of Zimbabwe are the victims of President Mugabe, and the international community must not turn its back. One in three Zimbabweans are affected by HIV/AIDS. If those people do not get food and emergency health supplies, there will be catastrophic human suffering. The international community must not turn its back. Unappetising as President Mugabe is, the people deserve our support.
Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): The Secretary of State accepts that a major factor in the impending famine in southern Africa is Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Food aid for his people is being diverted to supporters of ZANU-PF. Given that fact, and reports of trouble in Matabeleland, what is the right hon. Lady's view of the US proposals, recently reported in the Washington Times, to deliver food directly to the people of Zimbabwe and, if necessary, to effect regime change in that country?
Clare Short : There is no doubt that the situation is very difficult. The Government of Zimbabwe are attempting to control which NGOs can work, and their diversion of some food for political reasons makes the problem more complex. The Government, the UN and the whole international community are standing together to resist that. However, we must stay engaged, or vast numbers of people will lose their lives.
I saw Andrew Natsios, the head of USAID, fairly recently, but I am not aware of any plan to provide food aid in a way that will bring down the Mugabe regime. Keeping people fed and giving them health care is a complex enough problem, and we must focus on that. My hunch is that the disaster will bring down the Mugabe regime, after which there will be an enormous job of reconstruction to do.
Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden): Does the Secretary of State accept that we also must bear some responsibility for the famine in southern Africa, as our system of subsidised agriculture distorts world markets and prevents African farmers from securing a sustainable livelihood? I remind the Secretary of State that yesterday she said that failure to reform the European common agricultural policy would mean the end of the Doha agreement. Is not that meaningless in light of the Prime Minister's rebuff at the European summit last week?
Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton): May I suggest to my right hon. Friend that she perhaps ought to revisit the question of food aid in Zimbabwe? There is evidence that food is being denied to people who are not members of ZANU-PF. If that is happening, it is a form of genocide. We will be judged very harshly if we sit back and do nothing and do not question the people in control in Zimbabwe.
Clare Short : I assure my hon. Friend that we are not sitting back and doing nothing. As I have said, the UK is the second-biggest donor to the emergency fund, and our emergency team has some of the best experts in the world working in the region. We are doing everything that we can to work around a bad Government, to keep people fed and to prevent the abuse of food aid.
By and large, we are succeeding. The regime is attempting to misuse food aid, but we must keep working so that the regime will not prevent those who did not vote for it from receiving any assistance at all. We cannot allow that to happen.