Skip to main content

Hunger: East Africa

Volume 734: debated on Tuesday 13 June 2023

16. What recent steps his Department has taken to respond to hunger in east Africa and the horn of Africa. (905353)

On 24 May, the United Kingdom co-hosted an international pledging conference for the horn of Africa that helped mobilise nearly £2 billion to help nearly 32 million people across the region.

The east African wet rains and the pledging conference have both come, but the food crisis is worsening. Just three weeks ago, the Government announced a further cut in aid to the region. Local organisations need more funding than most, so will the Minister set targets to increase funding to local organisations for adapting to climate change in the region and to diversify livelihoods to support vulnerable communities?

The hon. Lady is right about the importance of localism and localisation. I should make it clear to her that Britain’s pledge was £143 million—that will have an enormous effect. She should also bear in mind that we have a degree of flex when it comes to humanitarian budgets, and we have announced for next year that Britain—the British taxpayer—will be spending £1,000 million on humanitarian relief.

When the UK co-chaired the UN pledging conference, the Minister described the situation as

“one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in the world”,

yet he has cut funding compared with previous years and pledged less than 20% of the contribution that was given by the UK during the 2017 droughts. With over 70 million people now classed as at threat of starvation, is he not rather ashamed of the UK’s meagre response?

If I may say so, the hon. Lady’s response to what I said is not fully comprehensive. We have allocated something like £400 million to east and central Africa, and although it is true that the bilateral spend is slightly below last year’s level, as I said, we do have some flexibility. It is the starting point for our spending this year, and of course, we will keep all these matters very much in our minds.

Climate change and conflict are causing untold misery across the horn of Africa and forcing millions of people to leave their homes. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should be spending more of our overseas aid on stabilising lives in such places as east Africa and less on expensive asylum hotels here in the UK?

My right hon. Friend is right, and she can rest assured that those points are made in discussions within Government. The point I would make is that as a result, the Treasury agreed to provide an extra £2,500 million of support to compensate for that spending. I think that was the right decision, and I strongly support it.

In February, I visited Kenya with World Vision UK and saw first-hand the impact of climate change on drought and hunger. While the £143 million aid package, which the Minister mentioned and which was announced at the UN pledging conference in May, is welcome, what more can the UK Government do to support this crisis-stricken part of the world at this important time?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right in what she says. That is why we have announced that we intend to publish a White Paper setting a road map towards achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030 and making greater progress on tackling those climate change problems. We hope to engage the interest, involvement and support of colleagues on both sides of the House in that White Paper endeavour.

More than 29 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan are now experiencing catastrophic hunger levels following a fifth failed rainy season in a row. It is also the fourth year in a row that this Government have cut aid to those countries. Oxfam has estimated that one person is likely to die of hunger every 28 seconds between now and July. Can the Minister please explain how he is restoring Britain’s leadership in international development while decimating our support to some of the very poorest people on earth?

First, let me say that British leadership has been exercised at the two big conferences that took place in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. British expertise and technical know-how is ensuring greater resilience and adaptation spend to drive up the ability to survive these crises when they take place next. If I may say so, the hon. Member must not diminish the extraordinary support and leadership that Britain is giving across the horn of Africa. The figures we have announced are preliminary figures, as I have said. We will react to the crisis—that is one of the things we are able to do—and those figures take no account of the tremendous support that British taxpayers are giving through the multilateral system.