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Faith-Based Organisations

Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2007

4. What percentage of aid provided by his Department was distributed through faith-based organisations in 2006-07. (136208)

In 2005-06 the Department for International Development provided more than £23 million to UK-based faith groups, including Christian Aid, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development and Islamic Relief. That sum represents about 10 per cent. of funding to UK civil society. It does not include DFID funds that are passed to faith groups through multilateral donors, or through developing country Governments, so the total sum will be much higher.

I thank the Minister for that response, and I congratulate him, the Secretary of State and all officials in his Department on rightly recognising the important work that faith-based organisations such as Tearfund, CAFOD, World Vision and Christian Aid do in delivering aid and development all over the world. Would the Minister like to put on record today a reaffirmation of the importance of faith-based groups delivering such aid?

I am grateful for the opportunity that the hon. Gentleman has provided, because I share his view that faith-based groups do a huge amount of good in the direct provision of services in many developing countries. I had the opportunity to see a superb Christian Aid-funded project in South Africa that is doing a huge amount of good in the Germiston township just outside Johannesburg, helping that community to deal with the impact of HIV and AIDS. Faith-based groups do a lot more than that, too: they advocate efforts to tackle poverty, and they play a huge role in the campaigns that are inevitably mounted in the run-up to G8 conferences to encourage international leaders to do more. We welcome them.

Would the Minister join me in congratulating Hindu Aid and its chairman, Arjan Vekaria, on the excellent work that they do in building up relations between our country and India in particular? The Secretary of State will address Hindu Aid shortly. Surely, that is the best way of trying to get those networks working so that aid is properly spent.

I join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to Arjan Vekaria, the chair of Hindu Aid, and the many other members who support Hindu Aid’s work. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State looks forward to the forthcoming conference with Hindu Aid—indeed, I do too. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) is right that the development work that we are doing in India is extremely important. Given the huge number of people in India who still live on less than a dollar a day, there is much more to do. Hindu Aid’s work both in drawing attention to that and in campaigning for more resources and more progress on poverty in India is hugely important.

My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) rightly highlighted the important role that UK faith-based organisations and their dedicated volunteers play in alleviating poverty across the developing world, particularly in conflict zones and with vulnerable groups. A recent report by the World Health Organisation identifies the fact that up to 70 per cent. of the health infrastructure in Africa is owned by faith-based organisations, yet it concludes that there is minimal co-operation between them and mainstream public health programmes. Perhaps the Minister will say what specific proposals DFID has introduced to enhance collaboration with and between faith-based organisations, particularly to ensure that the goal of universal access to HIV prevention and treatment is achieved by the target date of 2010.

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the need for considerably more effort across the international community by faith-based groups and international donors such as ourselves and other countries attending the forthcoming G8 summit to make progress towards the goal of universal access to HIV prevention, care and treatment. We work closely with a range of faith-based organisations in a number of developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. He rightly drew attention to the report that said that more effort is needed to bring those groups together and to link them to mainstream health care services. We are seeking to do more through our investment in health care in Malawi and Sierra Leone to link those faith-based organisations together. We have come a long way but, as he said, we have an awfully long way to go, too.