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Orphans (Malawi)

Volume 473: debated on Wednesday 12 March 2008

There are 1.5 million orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi, 550,000 because of HIV and AIDS. DFID gives £2 million a year to the National AIDS Commission, which, among things, provides education and care to orphans and vulnerable children through community-based organisations. In 2006-07, just under 1 million orphans and vulnerable children received support. The commission is also supporting a pilot cash transfer, which has helped 35,000 people in four districts, including 17,000 orphans and vulnerable children.

Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to a small charity based in South Ribble, the Friends of Mulanje Orphans—FOMO—which supports 4,000 orphans in Malawi? Will he also ensure that his Department gives as much support as possible to the excellent work that organisations such as FOMO undertake?

I am more than happy to recognise the excellent work carried out by organisations such as FOMO, which, as my hon. Friend says, helps 4,000 orphans with school fees, meals and health care through a network of 10 centres covering 70 villages. That is exactly the sort of vital community-based work that Malawi’s National AIDS Commission funds. It supports some 1,800 organisations, providing care for orphans and vulnerable children across Malawi.

As the Minister said, many of these children are orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS. Is he therefore confident that enough of the Department’s investment in Malawi and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa is spent on preventive measures through education, rather than just on treatment? Is it not the case that we will never get to grips with HIV/AIDS unless we can empower people to make informed lifestyle choices to deal with that dreadful disease?

The hon. Gentleman is correct. Education is vital in the fight against AIDS, but so, too, is health care. It deals with the symptoms; he is talking about the cause. I am pleased to let him know that we are investing £100 million in Malawi over six years to deal with many of these issues and that antiretroviral treatments are now available to 130,000 people compared with a figure of just 3,000 in 2003.

As my hon. Friend will be aware, the Scottish Executive have been running a programme in Malawi for some years. Given the Paris declaration on harmonisation and alignment, does he agree that it is important that the programme should work in tandem with DFID to ensure the best and most effective aid programme for Malawi?

My hon. Friend is right. Part of the Paris declaration and its principles is that there should be alignment between different funding targeted at various areas—that would apply in Malawi too.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world—it is certainly one of the poorest countries in Africa. Does the Minister agree that the best help we can give its orphans is to reduce the number of children being orphaned in the first place? Ensuring access to antiretroviral drugs is vital; they must be properly delivered. What can he do to ensure that the numbers of doctors and nurses fleeing Malawi to come to countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America are greatly reduced?

The hon. Gentleman is, of course, right. A serious challenge for the developing world, and for Malawi in particular, is the fact that health workers leave those areas. I am pleased to say that between 2003 and 2007 their migration decreased by 71 per cent. The investment of £100 million to which I referred in part deals with some of those challenges. The situation has been helped by the code of conduct that this country has put together on employing overseas health workers. As a result of that £100 million investment, salaries have increased by 52 per cent. and a series of development incentives is in place for workers in Malawi. We are supporting the doubling of the number of nurses and the trebling of the number of doctors, and I am sure that he will very much welcome that.