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Horn of Africa: Famine

Volume 827: debated on Tuesday 7 February 2023

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to alleviate the consequences of the famine in the Horn of Africa.

My Lords, it is perhaps fitting that this debate takes place on the day of the memorial service for the late Lord Chidgey, who was so passionate about all things to do with Africa and would have shared many of the concerns that I suspect are going to be talked about in our one hour together.

It is with sadness that I stand here today to address this problem, although I hope that our debate may in some small way raise awareness of what is an extraordinary tragedy unfolding before us. As many noble Lords know, this region is currently experiencing one of the longest and most severe droughts on record. This, coupled with conflict and displacement, has led to an unprecedented food and nutrition emergency affecting almost 40 million people. The UN has already said that

“Famine is at the door”

in some parts of Somalia.

We are already seeing the effects of this crisis. UNICEF estimates that up to 5.7 million children in the region require treatment for acute malnutrition, with 1.8 million already experiencing it. This famine, initially caused by climate change, has been compounded by a series of other factors, making it far worse than what we have seen before. An outbreak of locusts, described by the UN as the worst in 25 years, has ravished crops across the region. The ongoing civil wars in Ethiopia and Somalia have displaced millions and made provision of food aid even more difficult.

The reverberations of President Putin’s terrible war in Ukraine have added to the problem. We now face the worst global food crisis of the modern era, with the UN reporting that global food prices hit a record high in March 2022. This has hit those in the Horn of Africa hardest. Russia and Ukraine are both ranked among the top three global exporters of wheat, barley, maize and sunflower seeds. Prior to the conflict, Somalia imported 92% of its grain from Russia and Ukraine. However, the impact of the war on farming and export, alongside the blockade on Ukrainian seaports by the Russian navy, has almost completely halted their food supply to the Horn of Africa. Only a few months ago, a ship containing 40,000 tonnes of wheat heading for Ethiopia could not leave its port simply due to a blockade.

In these challenging times, it is important that the UK works with its international partners to mitigate the effects of the crisis in Ukraine and its food security impacts on global supply chains. It is very clear that, if the world does not act quickly and decisively, hundreds of thousands of people, especially children, will die. I again highlight my deep regret at His Majesty’s Government’s cuts to official development assistance spending. In a time of such global misery, when the entire world seems to be facing unprecedented turmoil, we need to ask ourselves whether this is the time to be stepping back or stepping up and taking a lead. We as a country have a proud history of supporting those less fortunate, particularly in the Horn of Africa, where we have a long and deep history of engagement and support.

Even in recent years, the UK has demonstrated swift and decisive leadership, such as in 2017 when the speedy provision of £861 million to east Africa helped avert a famine, saving lives. We stood at the forefront of international efforts to provide food, water and emergency services. It is to be regretted that the UK has been cutting its international aid to east Africa. For example, in 2017 we invested £282 million in Somalia; by 2021, this had dropped to £232 million, despite inflation.

It is therefore with great regret that we hear of the Government’s confirmation of an allocation of a very modest £157 million this year across east Africa—less than a fifth of what we provided in 2017. We have demonstrated how capable we are of providing help in the past, but now I fear we may be turning our backs. The food crisis faced by those in the Horn of Africa is severe. Where we have acted slowly or indecisively in the past, it has led to countless losses of human life. In 2011, the inadequate global response to the famine in Somalia led to 260,000 deaths, half of them children.

Having worked with many food banks and voluntary groups in this country, I recognise that we are facing a severe cost of living crisis. It is deeply worrying to hear of the difficulties that people are facing at home. I am aware of them in the communities in my diocese. I share the concern of His Majesty’s Government and a great many people that we spend our money frugally and carefully. However, I am constantly reminded that we are a generous people; the British public have already raised over £400 million in donations for Ukraine.

We are witnessing one of the worst famines that our world has faced for 40 years, with a potential for unimaginable loss of human life. In the short term, our first step needs to be drastically scaling up our emergency response. An imminent, looming famine is projected to be at the door. The UK must demonstrate global leadership and spearhead further aid spending. I would be very interested if the Minister could tell us what representations we have made to our partners in Europe and other parts of the world, as I know that the World Bank is getting involved. We all have to work together; we must not presume that we have to do it all, but this is a time that calls for leadership. We are uniquely positioned to encourage African Union member states, global financial institutions and the private sector to provide funding and support for the Horn of Africa.

Learning from the lessons of prior famines, we need to take an approach of supporting and empowering local actors. These are often the first, most efficient and most effective responders to crises. In many cases, it is local church leaders who have the confidence of their communities and are best placed to give a lead. We have seen this, for example, in the educational programmes being rolled out for Ebola in other parts of Africa; a UN team in white hazmat suits simply scares people, but local leaders whom people know are best placed to help teach them the best ways—in that case around health prevention and here around growing crops and organising themselves. We are standing by to help with our own links in Africa through our dioceses and are in touch with many of the leaders there.

In the long term, our focus needs to be on addressing the impacts of climate change and demonstrating the global leadership that we are already giving. At COP 26, a great deal of importance was placed on loss and damage compensation for the global South—regions such as the Horn of Africa, where our climate impact is causing serious harm. We need to support the Glasgow climate pact, which calls for a commitment to climate finance for developing countries to help them better develop infrastructure that is more resilient to these climate shocks, such as famines.

As a nation, we have stood out as global leaders in the past. It is important that this Government continue this great tradition. We have been fundamental in saving millions of lives. I urge the Government to do the same again in this crisis.

My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans for the way in which he has opened this short debate. I also echo his remarks about the late Lord Chidgey. I think all of us who knew David Chidgey well and were able to attend the wonderful celebration of his life today in St Margaret’s know how sorely his voice is missed. Earlier today, there was a meeting of the All-Party Group on Sudan and South Sudan; he and I were fellow officers of that group, and his absence was keenly felt.

I currently chair the APPG’s inquiry into Darfur. I also took part in the International Relations and Defence Committee’s inquiry into sub-Saharan Africa and initiated debates in this House on the effects of Putin’s Ukrainian grain blockade and the war in Tigray, where between 600,000 and 800,000 lives have been lost. The UK Government have said that the use of food as a weapon of war in Tigray could constitute a war crime. Can the Minister tell us what has been done to establish the case against those responsible and bring them to justice? How have we taken forward UN Security Council Resolution 2417 on the starvation of civilians and unlawful denial of humanitarian access as tactics in warfare?

Two weeks ago, I chaired a meeting of the APPG for Africa in collaboration with the Royal African Society, where we heard disturbing first-hand accounts from Tigray. I will be particularly keen to hear the Minister’s assessment of what humanitarian aid is reaching Tigray, and indeed the bordering regions of Afar and Amhara.

Time is short this evening and it is impossible in a few minutes to do justice to all the excellent briefing material about the situation across the Horn of Africa which has been sent to us ahead of the debate. In case the Minister had not seen all the briefings, I took the liberty of giving him hard copies just before the debate began. He will see there some consistent messages—indeed, messages that are also in the excellent House of Lords Library Note we have received. It describes how the Horn of Africa is experiencing, as the right reverend Prelate rightly told us, the longest drought in four decades, with no end in sight.

Recovery from a drought of this magnitude will presumably take years. Exacerbated by soaring food prices, political instability, conflict, locusts—as we have heard—Covid-19 and the effects of climate-induced drought, or floods in the case of South Sudan, which I will mention, it is causing people’s lives across the region to be devastated. It has led to 36.4 million people suffering from hunger across the region and 21.7 million requiring food assistance. A famine has de jure yet to be declared, but de facto one has already come into existence. Famine is knocking at the front door.

The United Nations says that 36.4 million people, including 19.9 million children, have been affected by the drought, and that 21.7 million people, including 10.8 million children, need food assistance. UNICEF says that 5.7 million children require treatment for acute malnutrition, with 1.8 million subject to life-threatening malnutrition. In Somalia, the situation remains particularly critical, with 5.6 million people currently acutely food insecure; that figure is expected to rise to 6.4 million by March. Some 1.8 million children under the age of five are expected to face acute malnutrition by July 2023.

Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether the Government accept these figures and what numbers he has for current levels of death from hunger and malnutrition. Specifically, when does the Minister’s department predict that the 20% threshold used to formally declare a famine—when at least 20% of the population face extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30%, and at least two in every 10,000 people die every day from hunger—will technically be reached? The World Food Programme says that it urgently needs $689 million until May 2023

“to prevent widespread loss of lives”,

and that as it tries to respond to 8.8 million people, funding shortfalls have already forced the WFP to prioritise who receives assistance and who goes hungry. Does the Minister accept the World Food Programme’s estimate?

Notwithstanding a rapidly mounting death toll and what seems like acceleration towards a human catastrophe, the 2022-23 funding allocation for the Horn of Africa is lower than the 2021-22 allocation and less than a fifth of the £861 million provided by the UK Government during the last famine in 2017-18. That intervention, to the credit of this great country, saved millions of lives. With a desperate population again living on the brink, I hope the Minister can tell us whether we will re-examine the level of support and at the very minimum offer to match pound for pound an appeal to the generous people of this country via the Disasters Emergency Committee. Can he also clarify what proportion of the £372 million pledged for countries facing severe hunger crises will be disbursed to east Africa?

Let me ask specifically about Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea. This afternoon, our two excellent ambassadors in Sudan and South Sudan, Giles Lever and Jonny Baxter, briefed the APPG. Mr Lever told us that in Sudan “15.8 million people—one third of the population—will need humanitarian assistance”. He described insufficient supplies of bread and wheat and how what was available was priced out of the range of the majority of the population. He also said that increased displacements in Darfur—now at the rate of 200,000 people each year, in addition to all those already displaced—are adding to the challenges in a region which was subjected to a genocide in which 300,000 people died and more than 2 million were displaced.

In South Sudan, Mr Baxter spoke warmly of the ecumenical visit last week but sombrely spelt out the effects of violence and displacement on tens of thousands of people. While we all earnestly hope for peace, South Sudan has had four years of floods, not drought, and seen another 1 million people displaced. Mr Baxter told us that “9 million out of 12 million people are in need of help, 74% of the population are in need of humanitarian help and 63% are dependent on food aid”.

However, on a more hopeful note, the ambassador said that South Sudan could once again become a net exporter of food, and indeed meet all the food needs of the region, but that such development will require old warlords to become real leaders. It will require reconciliation rather than conflict, not least the appalling violence done in South Sudan to women. If the expectation is of help from outside, there must really be a commitment to self-help from within, and that means tackling the double curse of conflict and corruption.

In the case of Eritrea, the country is endowed with 1,500 kilometres of Red Sea coast, with huge potential for a viable and highly productive fishing industry which could help to boost food security, yet that was arbitrarily closed by the Eritrean regime. Instead of feeding its people, the dictatorship is more intent on conscripting 50% of its working population into the military, running a police state, generating a mass exodus of refugees, pursuing military conquest and committing atrocities, undermining food security in the region. Internally it provides very weak social protection but no end of curfews, restrictions on movement, power outages in Asmara and limited running water. NGOs have been denied access to deliver help and support, while fleeing refugees report starving families and destitute women begging on the street. Remittances from the diaspora to help relatives are reported to often end up in the Government’s coffers. That must all change.

Across the region, we need to tackle root causes, whether it is tackling corruption and the diversion of much-needed resources into manmade conflict, or creating greater resilience and sustainability by harnessing renewable energy, for instance, to create desalination for better crop production.

Famine will not wait on Budget decisions. Jeremy Hunt and Andrew Mitchell know Africa well, and they know the consequences of failing to urgently scale up the emergency response so that we can do the development things that are required. I know I join others in the House in thanking the right reverend Prelate for enabling us to debate this important subject today.

My Lords, as always, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord in a debate like this. I am very glad that he mentioned Sudan, which I will touch on in a moment. I congratulate the right reverend Prelate on ensuring that we have this important debate and allow the Minister to update the House on the Government’s actions. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, indicated, we received comprehensive briefings, which are greatly valued. The right reverend Prelate introduced the debate in a very comprehensive way; I will not repeat some of those comments.

The right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, also referenced that this debate is lesser because it does not have my noble and late friend Lord Chidgey taking part in it, which he most certainly would have if he was still with us. David was able to contribute to debates like this with a hinterland of experience and knowledge, as well as a Liberal passion, and we all miss him.

It is, to some extent, incongruous that we are debating hunger and famine in what only the House of Lords could indicate to be a dinner break debate. It struck me that if this debate is an hour long, according to the briefing from Action Against Hunger, 100 children will die of starvation in the Horn of Africa in that time. That put it into context. I was trying to find equivalents of some of the statistics, because with some of these debates, as we have indicated before, relaying the figures can be numbing.

The World Food Programme has estimated that 5.1 million children are acutely malnourished. That is not much more than the entire population of 10 to 14 year-olds in the United Kingdom. Therefore, the context we have to be aware of is that that entire age group in the UK would be malnourished. What kind of mobilisation would that have across the entire body politic of our country to try to resolve it? That is the scale of the challenge that exists.

I declare that I will be in Africa next week—I am a vice-chair of the All-Party Group for Africa—and I hope that I will soon return to Sudan. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, indicated, famine can be caused by both drought and floods. I have been to Gedaref in Sudan, which is an area afflicted by floods that can then bring about a degree of hunger, which drought can also cause. As the right reverend Prelate indicated, there is a 40 year-old seriousness about this, so for the Government to slash their support by 80% is not a response which any Government who want to be held in high esteem for their humanitarian responses should be proud of.

This is also in the context of the Russian Government in effect weaponising grain and using it geopolitically— I will be talking more about that in our debate on Thursday. I have raised in previous debates that a second front is opening in the conflict in Ukraine, in the east and in the global south. The UK is not responding appropriately to this second front, which is being used by Russia and, to a lesser extent, by China. We will, unfortunately, pay the price in the long term. But the real price is being paid by the people in the Horn of Africa region. As the statistics say, 22 million people are facing acute hunger.

I hope that the Minister can clarify what the current level of support is. As the right reverend Prelate said, the reduction in support in 2017 from over £800 million to now just £156 million is shocking. Can the Minister clarify what the current level of support is for this region? I would be grateful also if he could give an update as to what we are doing with our allies and friends, in particular those in the near region of this area. In the past, the UK was able to lever a quite considerable diplomatic and humanitarian response action. There is the famine prevention initiative from 2021, and the G7 famine prevention and humanitarian crisis compact, but what is the UK doing to lever in additional support? My big concern is that not only have we reduced the direct level of humanitarian cash assistance but that we are not levering in the diplomatic influence that we had in the past. I have not seen anything to indicate that we have been speaking to our Gulf allies, with their humanitarian support, to ensure that there is the necessary type of support. I would be grateful if the Minister could state in clear terms what we are doing.

As has been indicated before, the region has also been afflicted by conflict. We have debated the Eritrean and Ethiopian situation, but what is the Government’s current view of the likely consequences of that conflict and of where we are on peace discussions?

We need to look to the future, as has also been indicated. This region contributes 0.6% of greenhouse gases in the world, yet the people who live in this area are the ones who are affected most by climate change. This injustice is stark. What are the Government doing to lever in climate finance which will be used in this area? Again, there have been very few updates from the Glasgow climate compact. There was a $100 billion target with regard to commitments for the global south, with 50% of that for adaptation. Can the Minister give us an update on the current level of commitments for that? I know that he is particularly passionate about that area, so I hope he will be able to update us.

As has been indicated, this region can be self-sufficient in food. Tanzania and Uganda could be self-sufficient themselves, but there are issues with cost, quality and predictability of supply. The UK can play a pivotal role in supporting trade facilitation that focuses on local farmer sustainability. Therefore, the World Food Programme does not have to source its food from overseas. One of the ironies of this region, which could be self-sufficient, is that emergency food supplies are bought in from elsewhere, so we need to focus on support within that area. That means that the region would be much more resilient to shocks such as the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Therefore, the support on standards, the certainty of supply, safety of supply and reducing trade barriers would facilitate this.

A UK organisation which is funded by overseas development assistance, TradeMark East Africa, is pivotal to that support. One example, which TradeMark East Africa raised with me, is with regard to transfers of maize supplies between Tanzania and Kenya. At the moment, for one truck of supply there is a cost of $200 to cross the border. If we move towards more digital procedures, reducing some of the bureaucracy and supporting the process, we can work as partners with the countries themselves to ensure that supply. TradeMark East Africa’s support has also been greatly reduced at exactly the time when planning for the future needs to be paramount. I hope the Minister is able to give an update on our support for TradeMark East Africa. It is regrettable that our humanitarian and development assistance have been reduced, but that is not irreversible. The focus needs to be on ensuring that the Government live up to what we want to see in the world, which is a partner in a time of crisis and a partner in investment for the future.

My Lords, I too thank the right reverend Prelate for initiating this debate and reminding us of what is going on in the world. Sometimes we forget, and particularly this sort of crisis. I also want to associate myself with the remarks of the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords about Lord Chidgey. Unfortunately, I could not attend the memorial this morning due to another commitment, but my thoughts were very much there. We worked very closely together and he is sorely missed, particularly on issues about Africa, and in particular Africa’s potential—that was his focus.

I also declare my interest as co-chair of the APPG on Nutrition for Development. I think the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords mentioned that this is not a crisis that we cannot do anything about; it could be changed, and nutrition is also an important aspect of what is holding back African countries. Certainly, in the Horn of Africa there is the impact of malnutrition and the fact that stunting is still a huge issue that affects education, the ability of workers to contribute, and brain development. All those things have a huge economic impact that could be addressed. However, our focus tonight is also on the urgent humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa. It is facing its longest drought in four years, compounded, as others have said, by years of conflict and instability, the impact of climate change and Covid-19, as well as rising food prices due to the war in Ukraine. Millions in the Horn of Africa face acute hunger.

As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, highlighted, climate change impacts communities that contribute the least to it and have the fewest resources to respond to it. In east Africa, climate change is bringing a succession of extreme weather events to a part of the world that is currently ill-equipped to withstand them. Unpredictability of seasonal rains, causing droughts and increased floods, has resulted in local harvests failing, leaving countries reliant on imports. Women and girls are facing the terrible brunt of this crisis. Often responsible for collecting water, they face longer and more dangerous journeys to find it. Girls are often the first to be pulled out of school when families are struggling to survive.

Along with other noble Lords, I pay tribute to all the briefings that we have received, particularly from the World Food Programme, which estimates that the impact of the drought on food and nutrition security has left 22 million people facing acute hunger. This is almost double the 13 million people at the beginning of 2022. In its November review, the UN reported that 36.4 million people, including nearly 20 million children, were affected by drought, and that 21.7 million people needed food assistance. We have seen reports from UNICEF which estimate that up to 5.7 million children in the region require treatment for acute malnutrition. As I said, these are preventable things and, if we do nothing, they will have terrible lifelong effects. That is what we should be addressing.

I have repeatedly said to the Minister that the UK has provided excellent leadership on nutrition, particularly leading up to the Tokyo summit. I also welcome the pledges that the Government made on nutrition. What we want to hear, if not tonight, is that we regularly report on those commitments made at Tokyo, so that we can see what impact they have and encourage others to join in.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has said that the famine early warning system estimates that there is a famine in the Horn of Africa now. I do not disagree with him. The official response is that the Horn of Africa will face a famine in this year. Although Ethiopia has demonstrated economic growth over the past two decades, and we have often focused on it as a place of progress and development, what has halted that is the insecurity that has grown mainly from the serious malnutrition that remains a concern there, which is caused by the horrific conflict in Tigray. The famine early warning system has said that the Tigray region and the bordering regions of Afar and Amhara remain of high concern—and that is putting it mildly.

In the current situation, there is hope. I hope that the Minister can respond to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, about what assessment we currently have of the November 2022 agreement, when the regional forces and the Ethiopian federal Government agreed to a permanent ceasefire or cessation of hostilities. I also hope that the noble Lord can tell us what his response is to the recent reports that, despite organised withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray, small units remain in the region. I hope that he can reassure us on that.

We have seen in the briefings many calls for action, particularly from the UN, setting out the $3.7 billion in requirements for response funding, with a target of 27.4 million people. I hope that the UN has also focused on the efforts of the humanitarian organisations which have swiftly responded to those reports. As we have seen, there is a target, which I hope the UK Government are also working with allies to deliver. Of course, the problem is that funding is always going to be an issue. Faced with delayed and inadequate funding, it is inevitable that another potential drought will cause an even greater humanitarian crisis. Many of the humanitarian workers have been struggling to respond to all the needs of the affected population.

As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has acknowledged, in 2022-23 the United Kingdom allocated £156 million to humanitarian support for the Horn of Africa, of which £93 million has already been spent. On 17 January, the Minister for Africa announced an additional £17 million funding package to support people affected by the drought, with £5 million for Ethiopia, £1 million for Kenya, £8 million for Somalia and £3 million for South Sudan. What percentage of the £156 million pledged to address the humanitarian crisis has gone to local NGOs in Ethiopia? Besides funding, in what other ways are we supporting the locally led humanitarian response? Here, I agree with the right reverend Prelate that it is local NGOs and local community leaders who can lead the way.

On that, I am visiting Kenya again next week. I visited two years ago, when I saw the importance of civil society in changing things in the local economy and agriculture and in supporting the basic building block of universal health coverage. That was delivered not simply by government diktat, but by working with local communities and ensuring that community nurses and health workers were able to be based in those communities, changing things in practical ways.

I want to ask about the Government’s issue with addressing climate change. Will they consider prioritising climate action in directing more climate finance to fragile and conflict-affected areas? The noble Lord, Lord Alton, highlighted Somalia, which currently receives an 80th per capita of the climate finance that flows to non-fragile states. With a reduced ODA budget, will the United Kingdom consider increasing funding for catalytic investments to expand social protection programmes across the Horn of Africa?

I very much welcome this debate. It will not be the last word on this issue, but we need to respond to this crisis not in terms of hopelessness but with a determination to change things. As we have heard, the Horn of Africa can be a thriving economy and it can certainly deliver for its own people.

My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans for tabling this hugely important and timely debate. I am also grateful for the insightful contributions of other noble Lords who have spoken. I echo the tributes that previous speakers have paid to the late Lord Chidgey, with whom I had a number of exchanges; he was always polite, positive and constructive, usually on issues relating to the environment, which was a passion for him. Although I have not been here as long as other noble Lords in the Chamber today, I know that he will be missed.

The humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa has pushed tens of millions of people to a cliff edge, driven by a combination of conflict, the worst drought in 40 years and the rocketing prices that have resulted from Russia’s illegal war—a point made by the right reverend Prelate.

Before I continue, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for the regular information he provides via email and the bundle of reading material that I will take away after this debate. Having looked at it, some of which I had seen before, it makes for grim reading but is enormously important. In answering his question specifically, I say that we agree with the World Food Programme’s assessment of needs across the region. Unfortunately, we think that these figures are correct, but we wish that they were not.

Across east Africa, more than 71 million people are in need of aid. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and others said, rates of food insecurity and malnutrition are, sadly, soaring. In drought-affected areas across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, almost 24 million people cannot access enough drinking water and over 9 million livestock have died. In the Horn of Africa, more than three-quarters of a million people are predicted to fall into famine-like conditions by March, with millions more teetering on the edge. The situation is grave and at risk of deteriorating much further.

In Somalia, the number of people facing extreme food insecurity is likely to double by April. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I will pinch an answer from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, who touched on this. Famine declaration is a matter for the independent classification process. However, we know that, if aid is not sufficiently scaled up by June, famine is very likely to return.

The UK Government are committed to alleviating suffering and are playing a lead role in the international humanitarian response. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, I say that this financial year we will provide at least £156 million of humanitarian aid across east Africa, which will benefit millions of people.

Last month, the Foreign Secretary and the Development Minister both travelled to Ethiopia and Somalia, although separately. They saw the impact of the crisis, heard sobering testimonies from some of those affected and saw how UK aid is providing a lifeline.

In Ethiopia, nearly 30 million people—more than in any other country in the world—are in need of emergency aid. Since April 2021, the UK Government have helped over a million Ethiopians, with more than £100 million of UK aid. On 20 January, the Minister for Development announced a new £16 million package of UK support that will reach hundreds of thousands of people.

Tigray is another issue that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, raises diligently and relentlessly—in the positive not negative sense, certainly from my time as a Minister. It is difficult to give a precise response. We are cautiously optimistic. We cautiously welcome the peace agreement and the commitment that both sides have made to facilitating humanitarian and aid access. Based on what we know and believe, access is improving, so this is more than just a paper agreement, but the situation, as he knows better than most, is extremely complicated.

In Somalia this financial year we will allocate more than £61 million for life-saving humanitarian, health and nutrition programmes, and in Kenya we have provided more than 30,000 children with life-saving nutrition. This latest support builds on years of UK government humanitarian work in the region. Since 2018, over 9.3 million people in Somalia have benefited from humanitarian and resilience-building programmes supported by the UK. From 2018 to 2022, we provided nearly 1.9 million people with better access to water and 3.9 million people with support for agricultural production.

In drought-prone areas of Ethiopia, we have worked since 2015 with the Government to provide financial support and means of conserving water to 8 million people each year. In Kenya, a similar programme in drought-prone areas has reached over half a million people.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, mentioned trade. I thank him for doing so. While we are on Kenya, I was looking to provide him with a decent answer to this question, but, if he does not mind, I will give him only part of a decent answer. Since 2017, the regional economic department for investment and trade programme, which we support, has successfully supported tariff reform and facilitation of development of physical infrastructure with a view to boosting the prosperity of Kenya and the wider region. That is not aid, although aid has a role. The noble Lord is absolutely right to focus on trade. Although I am not a Trade Minister, I am having increasingly frequent exchanges with colleagues in the Department for International Trade as a Foreign Office Minister, because there is no doubt that effective facilitation of trade can so often be more effective than deployment of aid. So I thank the noble Lord for raising that point.

Noble Lords will be all too aware that climate change increases the risk of prolonged droughts. Indeed, everyone who spoke raised the issue. The UK Government have stood by their pledge to commit up to £11.6 billion of climate finance between 2021 and 2026. It is absolutely essential that the Government honour that pledge. I encourage all noble Lords to keep a very close eye on us: Governments can be tricky things. It is absolutely critical that the pledge is honoured, for so many different reasons, beyond even climate change itself. Our reputation as a country hinges absolutely on our having made that pledge and having used it to leverage generous commitments from other donor countries. Without it, we would not have secured the kind of increase in finance commitments that we have seen at and since Glasgow, so it is really essential.

It is not just about reputational issues. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said, climate change is not an academic discussion point for the countries that we are discussing today. For so many on the front line, it is an existential issue. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, made the point that Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia contributed around 0.6% to the problem. I think that that was the figure he used—I hope that I did not get it wrong. Yet those three countries have had just two normal rainy seasons since 2016. It really shows that those countries most on the front line tend to have contributed least and urgently need support.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, made the point that we should be focusing much of our support on those countries that really are on the front line, the poorest and most vulnerable. He is right, although our climate approach has to be balanced on prevention and mitigation of climate change; we will not always be focusing on the very poorest countries. We all need the Amazon, the Congo Basin, and Indonesia’s forests and peatlands to be protected and restored. Those do not necessarily coincide with the poorest people in the world, but if they go, we are all finished. However, when it comes to adaptation, it is about the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. He is absolutely right to make that point. I hope that that is reflected in the way we invest in the commitment I mentioned earlier.

In response to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, we are working in tandem with our international partners to address the risk of famine and help the region build resilience. For example, our humanitarian aid partnership with Saudi Arabia has led their humanitarian agency to provide match funding of £1.7 million in Somalia. We are also expanding our work with Germany and the World Bank to strengthen agriculture and the response to droughts.

I fully acknowledge the impact of the ODA cuts, as I have done many times in this House. The point was initially raised by the right reverend Prelate, then by other speakers. I will make just two points. Despite that reduction, the UK is the third-highest spender of ODA in the G7 as a percentage of GNI, spending more than £11 billion on aid in 2021. In recognition of the unanticipated and significant costs incurred supporting people from Ukraine and Afghanistan, the Government are also spending an additional £1 billion in 2022-23 and £1.5 billion in 2023-24 to try to accommodate those costs. I agree with the speakers today that we absolutely must return to 0.7% as soon as we possibly can. There really should be no delay.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, made a point about the quality of investment, not just the quantum. He is right there as well. We need the quantum, but we also need transparency and monitoring. That applies very much to the Tokyo commitments. So that point is very much noted, and he is right to have made it.

The severity of the drought and food insecurity facing the Horn of Africa is crystal clear. The situation is at risk of getting, and is likely to get, worse. Our humanitarian support to East Africa is providing millions of people with essential services, and we will continue to work with partners to save lives and build resilience. Once again, I thank noble Lords for their insightful contributions and the right reverend Prelate for initiating the debate.

I thank the Minister. It really has been a most distressing tale that we have heard this evening. I, too, wish to thank everyone who has brought such an insight into this area. Concentration has been made on many of the countries and regions within the Horn of Africa, but very little attention or mention has been given to Djibouti and Somaliland, which are two very important parts of countries within that region. Would the Minister care to offer any message of lessons learned as a result of their circumstances in that region?

I thank the noble Viscount for raising that point. I certainly would not want to pretend to be an expert on either country. One of the problems with Somaliland is that technically and legally it belongs to Somalia. Therefore, when we talk about Somalia we are often talking about Somaliland, but they are really two very different countries with different Governments. In so many respects, Somaliland is a beacon: it is a place where elections are held, people shake hands afterwards and do not contest them. Iris technology is used to avoid fraud. Despite its really horrific back story, which the noble Viscount will know well, and all the cards being stacked against it, it has flourished and succeeded. There are lessons to be learned there and I hope the UK will be able to increase its support for that region.

While we are on this issue, I did not mention the ever-present threat of al-Shabaab, which is a key driver of the humanitarian crisis. I do not think that anyone else mentioned it, either; I apologise if they did. I reiterate that the UK is supporting the African Union’s efforts to counter al-Shabaab. We are looking for opportunities to continue to do so with the African Union and elsewhere. We provide aid to Somalia in a way that avoids enriching the wrong people. That is an issue that all deployers of aid need to be very aware of at all times.

I thank the noble Viscount for raising Somaliland. It is a remarkable place and a story that needs to be told more often.