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Developing Countries (Health)

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department has taken to address (a) underweight, (b) unsafe sex, (c) unsafe water and sanitation and (d) indoor air pollution in high-mortality countries. (99101)

Globally, around 800 million people do not get enough to eat. Malnutrition is a factor in over half the under-5 deaths in developing countries, 150 million children under 5 are underweight. More than 20 million low birth weight (LBW) babies are born each year. LBW babies are more likely to die in infancy, suffer from stunted growth, and ultimately suffer reduced working ability and earnings as adults.

DFID is working with developing countries and the international community to reduce hunger and improve livelihoods. One way to do this is through supporting programmes that help increase the amount and availability of food that people produce in poor countries. This increases the food supply and in turn lowers prices. This helps those very poor people who rely on the market to get access to cheaper food. Between 2004-05, the UK provided nearly £124 million in direct support to agriculture in poor countries. DFID is also working to improve child health by improving access to basic services such as health, education and water and sanitation, by promoting critical investment in infrastructure, such as clinics, clean water and market access roads.

340 million new cases of largely treatable sexually transmitted infections occur annually, 100 million of them among young people. 58 million people are infected with HIV. 20 million have died, and in sub-Saharan Africa it is the leading cause of death. Women and young people are particularly vulnerable. Fewer than one in five people at risk have access to prevention information. Improving sexual and reproductive health through improved information, services and commodity supplies is among the most cost-effective of all development investments and is central to DFID's strategy. It saves and improves lives, slows the spread of HIV and AIDS, reduces poverty and encourages gender equality. Changes in sexual behaviour through better awareness of the dangers can make a significant difference. DFID's "Taking Action" the UK strategy for tackling HIV and AIDS in the developing world commits the UK to an increase in our spending to at least £1.5 billion and offers financial and practical support to governments in improving treatment, care and prevention.

The DFID-supported Joint Monitoring Programme of September 2006, estimated that spending to achieve the water MDG target needs to increase by one third and needs to double to achieve the sanitation target. These figures mask huge regional variations, with Ethiopia needing to increase its efforts in water by a factor of 13.5; DRC by 4.8 and Mozambique by 3.3 if the target is to be reached.

This is why in the recent White paper, “Making governance work for the poor”, DFID committed to doubling our direct spending on water and sanitation in Africa to £95 million per year by 2007-08 and more than doubling again to £200 million per year by 2010-11. We are directly involved in seven African countries (Ethiopia, DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia), and through our funding of other agencies' programmes, including the World Bank, the EU and the African and Asian Development Banks, we reach many other countries.

We support the EU Water Initiative, which aims to make the aid provided by the EU member states more effective. EU member states provide the largest funding in the water sector to Africa. We also support the EU Water Facility, which through funding of €230 million aims to make drinking water available to an additional 10 million people and basic sanitation to 5 million by 2010.

The International Energy Agency estimates that about 2.4 billion people worldwide depend on traditional biomass such as charcoal, wood and straw to meet their daily household cooking and heating needs. This is often burnt inefficiently and is a source of indoor smoke pollution. It causes ill-health, especially for women and children who tend to receive most exposure. The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.5 million deaths a year in developing countries are attributable to indoor smoke, with millions more suffering from chronic respiratory illness. Solutions include improved more efficient cooking stoves, cleaner fuels and proper ventilation. Changes in behaviour through better awareness of the dangers can also make a significant difference.

DFID is the second largest contributor to the World Bank's Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP). We have made core contributions to ESMAP of £0.5 million in each of the last four years. In 2002, we agreed with the World Bank that household fuel and health be taken up as a major theme. As a result, the programme has worked in five developing countries, looking at health impacts, improved cooking stoves and cleaner fuels. An example is DFID funding in 2002 of approximately £0.5m for an ESMAP programme in four provinces in China on new stove and ventilation technologies.

The UK also supports the work of Practical Action (previously the Intermediate Technology Development Group), the Partnership on Clean Indoor Air (PCIA) and the Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP). These include programmes that aim to improve energy access and reduce the huge environmental costs of solid fuels.