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Somalia: Hunger

Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2022

The humanitarian situation throughout Somalia is grave and has worsened significantly over the past 12 months. The number of people affected by drought has more than doubled since January, with more than 7.8 million people—almost 50% of the country—now in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 300,000 people are facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

Mortality and malnutrition are at alarming levels, with 300,000 people expected to face famine in Burhakaba and Baidoa. Sadly, children in Somalia are bearing the brunt, with half a million needing treatment for severe acute malnutrition, and they are much more likely to die of diarrhoea and measles. As families make desperate survival decisions, women and children will face gender-based violence and child marriage. Rather than continuously, callously cutting aid budgets, what will the Government do to honour their commitment to protect women and girls before it is too late?

Under the category 5 definition—those people who are on the brink of starving to death—there are nearly 1 million people in the world today, and 300,000 of them are in Somalia. There is, therefore, no question at all about the need. I hope to go to Somalia before too long to see for myself what more we can do, but I should emphasise that UK-funded programmes are ensuring that emergency cash transfers, which are very important, are reaching 310,000 people. On the hon. Member’s specific point, in terms of water and sanitation, we are helping 483,000—

Order. This also goes for the Government side of the House: we have to get Back Benchers in; it is not just a show for Ministers and their shadows.

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s much overdue return to the Front Bench. His return is to the Government’s advantage but also to the advantage of millions of men, women and children who rely on Britain’s leadership in aid, which he has been singularly forthright in pursuing.

May I bring my hon. Friend back to the issue raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill) about the resources available for aid? Yesterday, the front page of The Times told us that millions if not billions of British money is being diverted from aid, saving the lives of children in north-east Africa, to the Home Office—

Order. It is not just about shadow Ministers and Ministers; it is also about ex-Ministers. [Laughter.]

I thank my right hon. Friend very much for his kind remarks. He knows a great deal about this area, and the House benefits from his judgment and experience on it. In respect of The Times yesterday, all I can tell him is that these matters are very much the subject of discussions between the Foreign Office and the Treasury.

I also welcome the Minister to his post. Across east Africa, somebody is dying of hunger every 36 seconds. One hundred people will die in the time that Ministers are at the Dispatch Box. At COP, countries such as ours are urged to cover the cost of adapting to global heating in extremely vulnerable nations, but, despite soundbites from No. 10 about helping countries with the existential threats that they face, our Government are cutting support for countries such as Somalia. Will he demonstrate that he understands the real human cost of climate change by promising immediate assistance for food and climate support in Somalia?

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks. The international community is scaling up in Somalia and in Ethiopia. The World Bank and the African Development Bank have announced more than $35 billion of funding for food security across the region.