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Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further plans he has to facilitate transportation of food supplies to famine-striken areas of Ethiopia.

The £2 million tranche of emergency aid for Ethiopia, which I announced on 27 November is being channelled through British voluntary agencies largely for the purchase of trucks for food transport.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether he has considered the use of Royal Air Force helicopters to drop food supplies to famine-stricken areas of Ethiopia; and if he will make a statement;(2) whether he will consider repeating the successful Operation Bushell undertaken in 1984, using Royal Air Force Hercules aircraft, to air drop supplies to famine-stricken areas of Ethiopia.

Within Government-held areas supplies are at present being delivered by road. As for areas in northern Ethiopia not held by the Government, there are at present no agreed arrangements for delivery, either by road or by air, of food supplies from the Government side. If such access were agreed road transport would be by far the most effective means of moving supplies in the volumes required. The UN operated an extremely effective airlift into Tigray in 1984–85 and again in 1987–88. If airlift operations proved necessary, the UN has funds to hand, some of which we contributed, for this purpose.