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Volume 502: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2009

Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Recently, it has faced additional challenges, including a chronic humanitarian situation and the impact of the global economic downturn.

Despite these additional challenges, the Government of Ethiopia continue to make impressive progress in expanding the availability and quality of health, education, water, sanitation and agriculture services across Ethiopia, with support from international donors. Progress in these areas is building the foundations for faster growth and greater food security. The UK helps support this progress through the protection of basic services (PBS) programme, alongside complementary activities.

PBS has a proven track record of providing essential services for millions of very poor Ethiopians. In the next two to three years, our latest £60 million contribution will help:

provide an extra 150,000 trained teachers

get 2.8 million more children in school

train 6,000 new health workers

equip 1,280 health centres with emergency obstetric care

vaccinate 4 million babies against killer diseases

make sure that 400,000 more children survive to the age of five; and

provide access to water for 6 million more households.

We are aware of allegations that some aid provided through the Ethiopian authorities—including through PBS—is being distorted at the local level for political purposes. We take all allegations of this nature very seriously. PBS was deliberately designed to include a range of rigorous checks, including regular financial and impact audits, surveys of the intended beneficiaries to check our support is reaching them, field visits, and evaluations to monitor progress.

In addition to these in-built safeguards in PBS, we have raised our concerns with Prime Minister Meles and are taking additional steps to make sure that our aid is being used for its intended purpose. These steps include jointly commissioning work to look for any evidence of systemic or widespread distortion within PBS and the other programmes concerned.