Baroness Amos: My Lords, the immediate life-saving phase of the emergency response was initially provided by local capacities, including the Colombian Red Cross. The Department for International Development contributes to such preparedness and response measures through its annual support to the International Federation's Disaster Relief Fund which enables national Red Cross societies to respond immediately to crises. The second phase of the emergency was to provide relief to prevent further suffering. The DfID provided support through organisations able to deliver immediate relief on the ground. The Colombian Government have expressed their appreciation of the UK's response.
Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, that is an extremely encouraging reply, but the noble Baroness will be aware that the main export industry of the area is coffee and that the processing infrastructure for the industry has been largely destroyed, together with schools, bridges, hospitals and so on, all of which will take a very long time to repair. Can the noble Baroness say what is being considered in the longer term to restore economic activity in that area of Colombia?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I appreciate the noble Viscount's concern about long-term economic recovery. Assessments of the overall impact of the earthquake are continuing. As the noble Viscount knows, we are always concerned to ensure that there is a co-ordinated response and a co-ordinated effort. Initial estimates indicate that 1.5 billion dollars will be needed for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas. A number of people are still living in shelters and public services have not been entirely restored. We have a bilateral aid programme to Colombia which currently amounts to £1.4 million a year. Two of our major projects are based in the region, but they have not been adversely affected and normal activities have resumed. Our support for the reconstruction phase is likely to be through multilateral channels, and the EU and international financial institutions are awaiting the outcome of the needs assessment I have mentioned.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can say to the noble Baroness that, in addition to our immediate response, in which a number of organisations such as Oxfam and UNICEF were involved, we are looking at the longer term. However, as I said in response to the noble Viscount, we need to look carefully at the needs assessments that have been undertaken by the UN. As the noble Baroness will know from our White Paper on international development, we are committed to a partnership approach to development. We shall continue to look at the kind of resources that can be provided through the private sector. I shall write to the noble Baroness when I have further concrete information on that point.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, perhaps I may ask a question out of sheer ignorance. Does Colombia have a national debt? If it does, are not the financial efforts of various countries to help it in its present plight negated by the fact that it is having to repay a national debt?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, Colombia is not one of the heavily indebted poor countries and therefore does not form part of the international initiative. There is one outstanding UK/Colombia loan; the outstanding balance is £170,000. Final repayment is due in November 2005. The Colombians have consistently met the agreed repayment schedule. There is no expectation that they will not continue to do so.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, is it possible for people in the region to carry out much of the reconstruction work themselves, given minimal inputs from the international community in terms of building materials? Will the noble Baroness do everything possible to encourage the authorities in the region to use local labour? In that way, not only can people help to rebuild their own homes; they will have an income to feed their families in the meanwhile.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, one matter on which we are very clear is building around local capacity. We shall certainly encourage the NGOs and other organisations taking part in the reconstruction phase to use local capacity wherever possible.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, given that the Red Cross has done a superb job, will the Minister assure the House that government assistance of 1 million dollars which was promised in January is now being properly distributed? The press had reported that the distribution centres were missing.
Lord Morris: My Lords, the Minister spoke of the importance of co-operation in international development. Does she realise that this matter has nothing to do with international development, and everything to do with restoration of the status quo ante and with time? Speed of action is infinitely more poetic than words.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Lord. It is matter of working in partnership across sectors. The international development effort has been extremely important in the short-term, and will be so in the reconstruction phase in getting the country back on its feet.
Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I am trying to thank the noble Lord for that remarkable Answer, because my nanny told me I always had to. Unlike my nanny, who allowed me to have a free choice, do the Government intend to apply the same criteria to all foods and alcohol? Like the chicken, shall I be able to cross the road when I want to?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I always listen with respect to what noble Lords opposite say about nannying and the nanny state as they have far more experience than we on this side of the House have. It is not our intention to use a common standard of risk for all
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, my noble friend refers to new variant CJD. Up to about 32 people a year die from conventional CJD. The number of deaths from new variant CJD since 1995 has been 38. That is a serious matter.
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