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Horn of Africa

Volume 537: debated on Wednesday 7 December 2011

8. What recent assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in the horn of Africa; and if he will make a statement. (85124)

In spite of significant British-led support, the position in the horn of Africa remains extremely difficult. The coming of the rains has brought some improvement, not least because of British-funded vaccination programmes for more than 916,000 children. I am gravely concerned by recent reports that al-Shabab has ordered 16 humanitarian organisations to cease operations in Somalia.

I thank the Secretary of State for that response. Does he agree that quite often the conflict, particularly in countries such as Somalia, is the root of the problem, and what can he do to remedy that?

My hon. Friend rightly points to the fact that the Government are focusing on countries that are mired in fragility and conflict. It is one of the reasons why the Prime Minister has decided that Britain should host a conference on Somalia to try to ensure that we tackle the causes of state failure as well as the symptoms of it.

It is clear that there are a large number of difficulties, including the disposition of forces in Somalia, which hinders the distribution of aid. The biggest hindrance of all is the work of al-Shabab, which has kicked out 16 aid agencies. We are now very reliant on the International Committee of the Red Cross and two British non-governmental organisations, Save the Children and Oxfam, for getting relief through to an enormous number of very malnourished children who are in danger of dying as a result of this famine.